Architects who specify stainless steel door handles risk being sued under the new Disability Discrimination Act.
Research to be published later this month found that visually impaired had trouble locating door handles made from stainless steel and polished brass. Under the act, people with disabilities will able to sue if they can prove that a design discriminates against them.

The joint report by Reading University, the Royal National Institute of the Blind, ICI and door manufacturer Turnquest looked at the colour and tonal contrast between doors and ironmongery.

As polished metal has a high reflectance the report found that the partially sighted had problems discerning between the handles and the door surface.

The report says that stainless steel, satin (frosted) steel and polished brass should not be combined with wood finish door colours, and that stainless steel and polished brass should not be used in conjunction with formica.

To ensure compliance with the act, architects must conform to BS 8300:2001, which says: "All door furniture should contrast in colour and luminance with the surface of the door for easy identification."

The act comes into force in October 2004.