Accessible Exit Doors

Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB): Is it time for accessible exit doors?

There are a number of factors that point to the answer “YES”:Accessible Exit Door needed for elderly man in walking frame trying to open exit door

  • Australia is arguably behind other countries in terms of accessible egress.
  • The proportion of the population over 65 is forecast to increase from 14% in 2011 to 25% in 2100 (Census 2011) which may see an increase in the number of persons with a disability.
  • The ABS reported in 2010 that the number of adults classified as obese or overweight had increased from 56% in 1995 to 61% in 2007-08
  • This figure could increase without changes to lifestyles

The ABCB did make some recent changes to the Building Code of Australia (BCA) 2013  which includes the following:

  • Door handles on required exit doors, forming part of an exit or on a path to a required exit must comply with the door access provisions of AS1428.1-2009, Design for Access and Mobility Part 1: General requirements for access – New building work.
  • Braille and tactile signage indicating the level of the building is now required on all exit doors provided an exit sign.
  • An exit door is no longer permitted to have a step within the door threshold and now requires a threshold ramp or step ramp to be provided on all exit doorways leading to an open space or road.

Is this enough? Undoubtedly no.

Consideration should be given to appropriate turning spaces in corridors, intersections and before potential blockages (such as doors in the accessible means of egress). Additionally, as shown by the man in the cartoon, clearances around doors should provide sufficient space for people using a mobility aid, especially important for those people who would have difficulties or be unable to negotiate steps.

Hopefully we see some new initiatives introduced to the egress provisions in BCA 2015, including requiring a maximum door force to  open, hold open, or close an exit door.

There’s some great ideas overseas, including wayfinding signage, lighting, egress colour schemes to identify doors, sounders, flashing exit signs etc. These concepts would improve the level of accessibility for anyone in an emergency situation, but could particularly help those with reduced mental or cognitive abilities.