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Access for all

19 August 2019

Great building designs champion accessibility for all, and door entry panels and access control kits need to be usable for people with disabilities. Sam Stuart provides an insight.

THE SECURITY industry must constantly adapt and change to suit the requirements of an ever-changing market. For now, the rise of lift control as a requirement, keeping on top of new technology and site accessibility are some of our key topics. These topics, much like the huge number of issues facing the world, the single use of plastics and the rise of AI to name a few, are issues where saying “I care” is no longer good enough. Action is needed as these are subjects that require a solution. The security industry has also seen these topics used in recent times to score points and the greenwashing phenomenon exists in each of these fields.

With that in mind, I want to discuss accessibility with you. Not from the perspective of meeting the bare minimum requirements, but on championing accessibility on your next project. This is a process that should be introduced at conception. If a building has not been designed to allow access for all, then it won’t be accessible to all. If accessibility and functionality has not been considered throughout every stage of an installation, then it cannot be achieved by simply bolting on requirements at the last minute. A truly great design will include these details from the start and incorporate those requirements that have at times been seen as ‘optional’.

The built environment in which we all live is becoming more accessible, and rightly so. I’m sure that when asked, all developers would want every building to be easily accessible to an individual with any disability; the question we often find ourselves up against when designing site security is how to balance these requirements against the overall integrity of the security system, not forgetting that the cost of execution will play a factor too. Considering all the other trappings of a modern development and this becomes a complex business of balancing the priorities of different levels throughout the construction process.

How then, can the security installer, working in a largely pre-defined environment ensure that they find the best solution for those people who will use the building long term? For the purposes of this article I want to focus on the approach to the building, and given our own specialisation, discuss how you can champion accessibility through door entry panels and access control kits. 

As a business, Door Entry Direct was created because we are driven to find innovative solutions that find a better way to help people. That often means juggling various stakeholder requirements and technical limits to find time, cost or energy saving resolutions that we can all be proud of. When we start to design these systems with our customers, they often arrive with a tender document in hand and find themselves in need of help to ensure that they can meet requirements, or sometimes without even that much information, just a basic idea of how many apartments or entrances the site will have. We have found that our in-house technical knowledge has allowed us to create solutions that go beyond the “off the shelf” service that is offered elsewhere; and the broad range of manufacturers that we work with means that we can always create flexible ideas. Couple this with our in-house manufacturing processes and we find that we are uniquely placed in our industry to answer some of the difficult questions associated with accessibility. Our suggestion then is to work closely with your supplier whenever taking on a bespoke project. The earlier in the process that you can bring this supplier into the loop, the better the results at the back end. When planned well from the start and time allotted accurately, maintaining high standards costs no extra time against those completion deadlines.

Biometric access 

In designing the most secure residential or commercial site, installing a panel that offers a biometric access control option would be the first choice for safety conscious residents, building managers and developers. Mobile technology, proximity access, keypad and mechanical locking are some of the many options. However, all these access control solutions could potentially be seen as problematic when held under the DDA microscope. Facial recognition can be difficult to use for those who are blind or visually impaired, given that many systems, even modern ones, require a very specific positioning in order to read the face. Finger-print access is arguably more accessible in this case but will require significant braille instructions to support users. Fob access proximity readers will allow a greater margin of error, and therefore less braille instructions, whilst retaining site security so are probably the happy medium in this situation.

Work closely with as many project stakeholders as you can and ensure that wherever possible those working on the previous phase of the development are thinking with accessibility in mind. There are some terrific and informative resources out there for those who want to learn, and championing this on site will start the revolution. Ensure that space is given where required, and that the height of your panel installation is reachable. Here, modern technology will make your life easier, as wide-angle camera lenses and pan-tilt features in many ranges will limit the impact of this change to the security of the site.

For many this move towards accessibility will mean a move away from a modular style panel, which have been in vogue through mainland Europe. These panels offer a great deal of flexibility as they have been designed to enable the swapping out of components without changing the integrity of the system. 

However, there is a dilemma with modular panels and accessibility which is that many will not include a DDA compliant version. This means that you will have to commission a piece, or pieces, of bespoke metalwork from your distributor or manufacturer; and here is where we’ve found a great deal of success, especially when working on a more complex design. It is possible to see from the image that the inclusion of braille and backlit / halo lit buttons for the partially sighted and blind residents and visitors not only serves to make this site more accessible, but also remains aesthetically pleasing.

This takes just a small piece of the greater DDA puzzle and offers a few ideas about how best to complete it. It is also necessary to consider requirements in other security elements and build a holistic approach to accessibility throughout your projects, keep up to date with relevant changes and know where you should place your equipment for the greatest impact to people who are in need of it. Changing to large push to exit buttons, lit buttons on panels and door status indication is a great way to help. Share your successes, we always want to hear about how people have managed to find solutions.

The next time you are starting a project, make sure to consider whether you are hitting the bare minimum requirements to pass an inspection, or get a phase of the project signed off. If the answer is yes, maybe it is time to become an ambassador for accessibility and start really thinking about how you can design the site to be accessible to all regardless of any individual’s requirement. The small acts of inclusivity that you can be responsible for really will make the difference to those that need them. Access control must be accessible, and you can lead the revolution.

Sam Stuart is director of sales and business development at Door Entry Direct. For more information, visit www.doorentrydirect.com