CPD 4: Accessible buildings and the equality act

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This module examines the different types of automatic and manual doors that can be used to comply with accessibility regulations. It is sponsored by DORMA

How to take this module


To take this module read the technical article below and click through to a multiple-choice questionnaire, once taken you will receive your results and if you successfully pass you will be issued automatically with a certificate to print for your records.



Introduction to the Disability Discrimination Act and Equality Act

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was passed into law in 1995. The act made it unlawful in the UK to discriminate against disabled employees and for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably. In October 2004, the legislation was toughened to state that service providers must make reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises to allow disabled access to the service. Under the DDA, service providers include anyone who provides a service to the public or a section of the public.

In 2010, the DDA was incorporated into the Equality Act, which covers services in the commercial, retail, financial, residential, education, healthcare and transport sectors. Breach of the law can result in unlimited fines.

As the Equality Act relates to access to services rather than to premises, buildings and products cannot be “Equality Act compliant”. Instead, they must comply with Building Regulations and British and European standards. The key Building Regulation in England and Wales is Part M: Access to and use of buildings. (This is Part R in Northern Ireland and Section 3 in Scotland.) The key standard is BS 8300:2009+A1:2010 “Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. Code of practice”. This module will look at how different types of door can comply with this key guidance, allowing service providers to meet their obligations under the Equality Act.


Automatic doors can add visual appeal and make access easier

Types of automatic door

For many people who lack physical ability, heavy manual doors can be a barrier to access. Automatic doors can remove that barrier. Types of automatic door include:

  • Automatic sliding doors These are the most common type of automatic door and are ideal in areas with heavy traffic. They are available in single, bi-parting or telescopic configurations.
  • Automatic swing doors These are the second most common type of automatic door and are again are ideal in areas with heavy traffic. They are suitable for internal or external doors and can be retrofitted to existing entrances.
  • Automatic in-head swing doors These are a good option when aesthetics are important. The operating unit fits almost invisibly into the transom and the opening and closing mechanism is driven through the pivot points, so there is no need for a project arm along the length of the door.
  • Automatic space-saving doors These have a swiveling action, which means that the supporting structure and open door only occupy a space equivalent to the breadth of a hand. They are reliable even under heavy use, and can be used on emergency escape routes, as they can be opened like a normal hinged door.
  • Low-energy doors These are a good option in areas of low traffic, or where the normal manual operation of the door needs to be retained with only occasional assistance to those who need it. They provide assistance on demand through the use of remote wireless push pads or remote or infrared hand-held controllers.
  • Automatic bi-folding doors These are especially suited to narrow door openings and other areas where space is limited.
  • Revolving systems Revolving doors can be automated and move at a speed determined by the slowest person using them. Most wheelchair users are able to use revolving doors under 3m in diameter; however, some disabled people may not have the confidence to use them. Therefore, pass doors, preferably with a low-energy swing-door operator, should also be provided.

Manual doors: opening and closing

Part M and BS 8300:2009+A1:2010 agree that the force required to open a door should not exceed 30N between 0 and 30˚, and must fall below 22.5N between 30˚ and 60˚. However, it is critical that this is achieved while maintaining the minimum closing force required to effectively close the door, as indicated in BS EN 1154. The efficiency of a door closer is the closing force expressed as a percentage of the opening resistance. A good closer should have an efficiency of 65% or higher.

Rack and pinion door closers with scissor arms and cam action door closers with slide arms are designed to give their maximum closing power in the last few degrees of closing, thereby ensuring that they can override any latch and hold the door firmly in its frame. Similarly, the greatest resistance to opening will be in the first few degrees. However, the combination of rack and pinion type mechanisms with slide arms will result in an increasing opening resistance throughout the opening cycle, and the maximum closing power being averted over the last few degrees of closing.

A cam action closer with a slide arm, on the other hand, is designed so that it provides the required maximum closing force within the final few degrees, and yet the opening force falls away even more rapidly than the rack and pinion closer with a scissor arm. After the first few degrees, there is very little resistance throughout the opening cycle, thus helping to ensure doorsets can meet the requirements of Part M and BS 8300.

As well as the closer, there are many other elements of a manual door design that can affect accessibility. These include:

  • Locks and latches Locks can provide a high degree of resistance over the final few degrees of closing. A silent pattern latch bolt offers very little resistance when engaging into the strike plate, helping to keep closing forces to a minimum. Also, to ensure that people with impaired vision or manual dexterity problems can use the keyway, the cylinder should either be above the lever handle or there should be a minimum of 72mm between the handle and the keyway.
  • Hinges Good quality hinges will also ensure closing forces can be kept to a minimum.
  • Handles The shape of door handles is an important consideration for people with manual dexterity problems. The hand-grip zone of any lever handle should be at least 95mm, and 45mm clear of the face of the door. The lever needs to have a diameter of at least 19mm and locks need to be inset at least 54mm from the edge of the door. If the handles are to be fitted to narrow stile doors, the effective gripping distance of the handle should start 63.5mm from the door edge. A high visual contrast between the handle and the door is also essential for visually impaired users.
  • Door width This is an important consideration for wheelchair users, and the minimum requirements, as stated in BS 8300:2009+A1:2010, differ depending on the direction and width of the approach, and whether the door is for a new building or is being retrofitted. For example, the minimum effective clear width of an external door for use by the general public is 775mm for an existing building, but 1,000mm for a new building.

Fire doors and escape doors

Most fire doors are designed to be kept closed at all times, but there are a range of products that can be used in conjunction with a closing device to allow free access in normal circumstances and automatic closure in the event of a fire emergency.

Hold-open devices, as they are known, enable the door to be held open at any angle between 75˚ and 180˚ by means of an electro-magnetic control, which can be surface-fitted door closers, floorsprings or transom closers. Magnets that are surface or flush-mounted on the wall can also be used with door closing devices. In the event of an alarm or a fault in the power supply, the electro-magnetic hold-open is released and the door is shut by the door closer.

In addition to hold-open devices, free-swing door closers can be used where doors are required to be closed or left ajar. These units allow manual operation of the door without the user experiencing any resistance from the door closer. The door can be left in any position, as if no door closer was fitted, but will close on alarm or power failure. Any electro-magnetic device must be CE marked to BS EN 1155.

How to take this module
To take this module read the technical article below and click through to a multiple-choice questionnaire, once taken you will receive your results and if you successfully pass you will be issued automatically with a certificate to print for your records.


Closing Date: 5 April 2013.
CPD Hours: 1 hour



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