The guidelines surrounding inclusive design are still causing confusion, but facilities managers can ensure their door-opening solutions are compliant, says Eryl Jones.
Inclusive design is now impossible to ignore. It’s widely accepted that everyone should be able to access and use a building and its facilities easily and independently.
Key market drivers – such as an ageing population and consumer buying power – also mean that facilities managers who do not prioritise inclusive design will face ever-growing challenges that could damage their organisation’s reputation and result in costly legal disputes.
But evidence suggests that there is still a great deal of confusion and non-compliance surrounding the guidance governing inclusive design – namely, Approved Document M, the Equality Act 2010 and BS 8300-1 and 8300-2:2018, which set out how buildings should be designed, constructed and maintained to create an accessible and inclusive environment for all.
Here is a brief overview of what the guidelines state about door opening solutions.
According to Approved Document M, “doors should be accessible to all, particularly wheelchair users and people with limited physical dexterity”. All doors to accessible entrances must be wide enough, once opened, to allow unrestricted passage for a variety of users, including wheelchair users, people carrying luggage, people with assistance dogs, and parents with pushchairs and small children.
Opening and closing forces
“If the force required for opening doors is greater than wheelchair users and people with limited strength can manage, they will be unable to continue their journeys independently. If the force of the closing device is too great or its speed too fast, there is a risk that people could be pushed off balance ”– (BS 8300-2:2018).
As a result, to enable independent access through a door, the opening force – when measured at the leading edge of the door – should be no greater than 30 Newtons (N), when moving from the closed position to 30° open. Then, the opening force required from 30° to 60° should be no more than 22.5 N. In terms of the maximum closing force exerted by a controlled door closing device, this should be within 0° and 15° of final closure.
Effective clear widths
The effective clear width through a doorway is the distance a door needs to be clear of any obstructions when opening. All doors must meet the required effective clear widths, which vary depending on the direction and width of approach and whether the building is new or not.
Door-opening furniture should be easily reached and provide a secure grip to users. This is vital for many disabled people, including disabled children. It should be possible to operate door furniture one-handed, with no need to grasp or twist.
For wheelchair users, a space alongside the leading edge of a door should be provided to enable them to reach and grip the door handle, and then open it without the user having to release their hold on the handle. Nor should the wheelchair’s footrest collide with the return wall.
To assist those with impaired vision, doors – and their furniture and frames – must contrast visually with other door surfaces and their surroundings. Careful choice of colour and materials is important here. And for any door that is not self-closing, or is likely to be held open, the surface of the leading edge must contrast visually with the other door surfaces and its surroundings.
Facilities managers should be demanding solutions that adhere to these guidelines. Just as the costs of failing to do so are potentially serious, the benefits are great – including greater consumer loyalty and spending opportunities, as well as increased differentiation, credibility and brand awareness.
Eryl Jones is managing director of the Assa Abloy Door Hardware Group