Concerning Accessibility Power Door Dangers
(Updated) July 15, 2011
Daniel J Towsey
Here is another serious accessibility issue that I think needs attention.
To start with.
Wheelchair doors should have the double sided blue stickers for wheelchairs on the glass so everyone knows
that it is a wheelchair door.
At present power doors are very dangerous.
I will explain why and give you some solutions.
The first and very serious hazard is that when I push the power button, I have to get into position to go through the
door before the timer starts closing the door.
There is no uniformity as to how long the door will stay open. Some will start closing well before I can get through
Many times such as at busy malls. People will walk through the door that I just activated. They think that it is just
another automatic door.
When this happens I can not risk trying to go through the door. I have to wait until no one else is going through the door.
I have to return to the button and press it again, then go back to line myself up so I can go through the door.
Sometimes I have to repeat this several times before I can get through the door.
Oh and to add even more difficulty. Buttons are often not beside the door they activate. So I never know for sure which
door is going to open. That is another reason why the wheelchair sticker is so needed.
I have no guarantee that if I go back and press the button again that the doors timer will reset.
Oh and also please realize that most buildings have two sets of doors. So that I always have to do this twice.
In some places the space between the outside door and the inside door is not wide enough to fit my wheelchair in and
still have room for the second door to swing open. When this occurs the door behind me hits my wheelchair before
I can go through the door in front of me.
Now think how difficult it is to go through the second door when the button is not on my left side. I have to drive into
the lobby sideways to the button. This means that my chair is now usually in front of the other set of doors that people
are trying to walk through.
Remember malls and apartment buildings have many sets of doors. My chair is then actually in front of and blocking two doors.
Door opening activation buttons need to be on the left side as motorized wheel chairs have their controller on the right side.
So that the person in the wheelchair can not use their right hand to push the button.
These buttons need to be on a railing that comes away from the wall. So that I can reach it. This railing also serves
another very important perpose. It offers a barrier. So that people and especially children will not walk close by the door.
In the event that someone activates the door. As the door would swing out and hit a person that is walking to close by.
A very important guideline for doors and motorized wheelchairs is that a wheelchair should never ever under
any circumstances have to back up while in busy doorways. Backing up in a wheelchair is very dangerous for everyone.
So please understand that the buttons need to be in place so that backing up will not ever occur.
Many doors have handles that stick out. One day as I was going through a door. It closed on my right arm.
The handle had a sharp edge. My arm was pulled in behind the handle and I was trapped behind the handle.
When this occurred my hand that was on the controller was pulled off then causing me to pull the steering knob over.
This caused the wheelchair to violently turn at full speed and smash into the door.
The forward movement and weight of the wheelchair just about tore my arm off. It was very scary and very painful.
Also please realize that the motors are very powerful and add to that the total weight of my chair at 750 pounds.
Which means that there is a pressure of at least 1500 pounds pushing my arm under that portruding door handle.
Wheelchair access doors should have flat bar types of handles that do not stick out.
My wheelchair is made to just fit tightly through a standard door. So that if the door has a handle that sticks out.
It means that the handle will always hit my arm and shoulder as the width of the door is narrowed by how far the
push bar handle sticks out.
Another serious hazard to having doors close while I am going through is that most power doors are all glass.
I would hate to think what could happen if the glass shattered when the door strikes the wheelchair.
I have to wear boots with steel shanks to keep my feet from getting crushed by doors.
Consider this, that all other power doors mainly being elevator doors. Have safety systems built in to keep
the power doors from crushing anyone and the doors will automatically reopen if someone is in the open doorway.
The power doors should automatically reopen if it encounters and strikes an object such as a person, a child,
a wheelchair. Or think about a very slow moving elderly person with a walker or cane.
I will now make a suggestion of a very simple way to achieve this that would not cost much and could
easily be retrofitted to existing power doors.
There needs to be an electronic eye (motion or temp) sensor put into the door jam on the side at the right
height to see the wheelchair or a child.
This sensor would close the door about five seconds after the last time it was activated.
The five seconds is important. As this would give a person in a wheelchair five seconds to go through
after the last person walked through the door.
This would also make it unnecessary for the wheelchair person to have to go and press the button again.
I think that power doors for accessibility need to have manditory safety systems in place. At present there
are no safety standards at all. Nor are there in guidelines for people to use as a guide when installing power doors..
Which is why I have writen this article. In hopes it will be used as a guideline.
About the location of the buttons…
Very few places have the buttons in an accessible location or height. Many times there is no room for my
feet or foot pedals as to allow me to be able to reach the buttons..
I understand that having the buttons easily accessible is not always possible.
But more attention in building codes has to be put in place to make sure the buttons are reachable.
With technology being what it is today. There is the possibility for a new standard to be incorporated into
future wheelchairs and power doors.
This will take sometime to achieve, but here is my idea.
It would be quite easy to have a universal wheelchair remote door opener with a standardized universal
door opener code.
Meaning that wheelchairs could be fitted with a door opener remote control that all doors used the same code.
This would be very beneficial for everyone involved and would help the disabled to easily open doors.
Please understand that most doors require that the wheelchair be pulled up (sideways) along side of the
button so it can be reached.
The biggest hazard that trying to reach buttons is that people in chairs very often have to do a complete turn
around or have to back up to get lined up with the door that often starts closing before they can do this.
Often the door that is opening will strike the wheelchair before the chair can be moved out of the way after
pushing the button.
Also swinging around or backing up a wheelchair is very dangerous for pedestrians. As almost everyone in a
wheelchair can not see behind them nor can they turn their heads around to see behind them.
The universal remote door opener for wheelchairs would really make it safer and easier for everyone..
I hope that this idea becomes incorporated into all power doors.
Location of hinges on non powered doors.
Most wheelchair users can open a door while they are driving their wheelchair if the door hinge is on the left side.
That is because the wheelchairs have their controllers on the right and only the left arm is available to open the door.
The only exception is doors without hydraulic spring loader door closures. They can be easily swung opened.
As they will not close by themselves after they are opened.
I have set up a new Wheelchair Rights facebook group
Please join this group