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 advertising boards.
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.
I 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 300mm.
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 ramp.
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.
Floating 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.
The doors 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.