National statistics show that there are over 11 million adults with a long-term illness. They form a significant percentage of UK consumers so making retail premises and public buildings accessible is critical for business as well as a legal requirement.
Reading the Equality Act 2010 (DDA) shows that businesses and public services must take reasonable steps to remove any physical barriers that make access difficult for the less abled.
What qualifies as reasonable?
The DDA doesn’t actually define what is reasonable and it is all down to the individual businesses to judge what is actually reasonable. Retailers should find out how effective, how practical and the cost of it as well. Ultimately though, only a court can decide what is, and what is not reasonable and companies who have a lot of financial resources are expected to do a lot more when compared to those who don’t have a lot of money.
An access audit evaluates the accessibility of your building and it follows the less able visitor’s path of travel. It also covers their arrival and their entry into the premises. When you do conduct an access audit, businesses can then work to identify what they need to try and change in order to make it accessible. Large premises may have a lot of issues that they need to resolve and they need to split these into short, medium and long term sections with priorities.
A key point to take into consideration is the overall height of the handrail and whether a second, lower rail will need to be included. Then there is the consideration of the distance from the wall or partition required for the rail to be of use. After all, if the rail is placed too close to a wall the potential for injury grows.
The DDA standard for handrail height is calculated from the pitch line of the surface of the flight of steps or ramp and should be between 900mm and 1000mm. The clearance from the adjacent wall to the handrail should be between 60mm and 75mm but should not project more than 100mm into surface width of steps, landings or ramps.
Although this may seem obvious to someone familiar with DDA handrail design it is all too easy to overlook. When retrofitting an access-way it is key to take into consideration just how much space the handrails will use in relation to the purpose of the access.
The final step of the initial planning should allow for a minimum of 300mm extension at both the top and bottom nosing of the a flight or flights of steps or a ramped access, while not protruding into an access route.
During the planning phase of a new build consideration should be given to the profile of any ramps to be installed. The maximum angle and height per ramp advised for a hand-propelled wheelchair is a 4.8º angle (1:12) and 500mm with an advised width of 1500mm.
The handrails that run alongside the ramp must comply with the above height regulation with the 300mm extension at the top and bottom of a ramp complete with closed ends. Although on landings the maximum height can be extended to 1100mm.
DDA handrail design can easily accommodate most stair riser situations without the need for specially engineered components. Kee Access Components provide a wide range of fittings that are suitable for virtually any modification.
General Access Considerations
Access to and from premises is an important consideration. The following points should be central to planning:
- Access solutions should respect the convenience of those who are less abled.
- Use of space – such as when adjusting an existing space, ramp or stairwell
- Building regulations should comply with physical adjustments.
- The intended use of the handrail does not impede emergency access.
- The handrail should be secured to the mounting brackets with either rivets or screws in order to prevent rotation.
- Where handrails are joined use internal couplings (Type 514-7) to maintain continuity.
- The handrail, mounts, couplings and adjacent surfaces should be free of anything sharp or abrasive.
- The handrail does not impede access to doorways.
One solution is DDA Compliant Handrails. They provide a cost-effective and practical means to make a premises accessible.
What is a DDA Compliant Handrail?
Handrails provide a safe means of access for all. This is especially true for those who find it hard to climb or descend steps. If you have a wide flight of stairs then you will need to have handrails that divide this up into channels. If you have steps that are over 1800mm then it is highly recommended that you use them to divide the flight of stairs into channels that are 1000mm or less. If you have two or more risers then you need to provide a continuous handrail on either side.
DDA handrails should:
- have a smooth surface and not cold to touch
- be an ergonomic shape that is easy to group such as circular or oval. The diameter of the handrail should be no more than 50mm for an oval design and between 40 to 45mm for a circular design
- be easy to see by the use of visually contrasting colours but should not be reflective
- have a smooth finish to prevent clothing from being caught
As mentioned previously a DDA handrail design should be finished in such a way that it is smooth to the touch, while having a non-slip and not cold to touch coating. The colour of this coating should contrast the nearby walls in order to be easily recognisable by the visually impaired but not be reflective.
Fasteners used to joint the component parts of the handrail should be used in such a way as to not produce sharp of abrasive edges that could cause injury. These fasteners should be used for both stairway and ramp handrails.
DDA Access is Kee
Building Regulations and the Equality Act make it very clear that a significant percentage of the population require access to public and commercial buildings. It shouldn’t be a second thought for companies to design access this way.