I was out with a wheelchair user last week attending a meeting
together. Everything was fine on the street, although there were several
obstacles that he had to navigate around such as tables and chairs outside cafes and A-Frame
Then we approached to building where
the meeting was being held. This was relatively new building of around
20 to 30 years I would imagine. It had been recently re-furbished
(probably this year) and was used as a community type centre. There was a
ramp up the side of the building to the main entrance door and there
was an upright edge to the ramp so that wheelchairs couldn't veer off
and white stick users had a tapping board to guide them. But at the door
my friend just could not operate the entry system because he could
reach it. It was tucked in the corner. I had press the button and to
open the door for him.
Once inside the desk was low so
that was good but we had to pass through two locked doors both with
digital keypads that he couldn't operate. The doors themselves were
extemely heavy and more than the prescribed pressure laid down in Part M
of the Building Regulations. In fact to heavy for my friend to open.
Then there was the lift. Just big enough for him and another person but
the side walls were open and he had to keep pressing on the control for
the lift to move. He couldn't do this. As he went in frontways and
couldn't turn inside so he had to reverse out. There should have been a
mirror against the rear wall, as specified in Part M so he could see
behind him as he did reverse so he could see when the door ws open and
if there were any obstructions.
Then we had to go into
a meeting room. There were two sets of doors which were very heavy with
a short corridor between of approximately a metre so he had to have
both doors open simultaneously to pass through, which was impossible for
him on his own. There should have been either just one door or a
passage sufficiently long to allow the first door to close before
opening the next. In reality there was only need for one door.
guess this was designed by an architect and am surprised that the
refurbishments were passed by the local authority. In this day of
accessibility I could not believe the barriers within this building so
here are some guidelines.
The ramp leading up to the
main door is good as it gives access to the building as is the upright
edge for safety. But there should be a handrail on both sides. There is
no need for steps in addition to the ramp because the rise is only about
The door controls and intercom button should
be within easy reach. In this case the controls were on the far wall in
the corner and not easily accessible. It would have been better to place
the controls on the side of the door first reached when moving up the
It is understood there is a security issue here
and that people in the reception area may have restricted access further
into the building. Inside the doors should have been controllable from
the Reception desk or self opening. Digital locks are the worse as
visually impaired people cannot distinguish different buttons or the
text upon them, whilst those with digital restrictions cannot press the
right spot. The doors should have the least resistance to open but to
ensure a firm close as these are fire doors.
lifts where two walls are open to the lift shaft are most unsuitable for
some disabled people, Visually impaired people may not realise the
walls are moving or that the have to continually hold the lift control
between stops. Others may have a difficulty giving a continuous hold,
wheelchair users may have a problem reaching the controls if they cannot
move their chair. In addition there should be a mirror on the rear wall
so wheelchair users can reverse out safely.
to the meeting rooms should be easy to push open or be on automatic
openers and be single leaf for easy entry. I didn't check the width of
any doors so it's not known if they comply.