Let’s play ‘where’s the open-door push button?’

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[Question] As a wheelchair user I’m often extremely frustrated by doorway power-assist push buttons. Thoughts?

    - Jeff, Wisconsin

[Answer] Did you ever hit the hot button! (No pun intended.) I mentally use unkind words whenever I’m forced to play the following games just to find – much less use -- the push button.

    1. Hide and seek (Use it if you can find it)

      a. The button’s behind a column or hidden by foliage
      b. The button’s so far away you can’t see it; when you finally find it, you have to rush because the door almost immediately starts closing.

    2. The amazing extendable arm (This should be an Olympic event)

      a. There’s a bench in front of the push button/s for series automatic doors
      b. Or a luggage dolly (see photo)
      c. Or a trash receptacle
      d. Take your pick; all force wheelchair users to reach waaaaaaay over or around an obstacle to press the button.

    3. Dodge ball (In this case it’s “dodge the door”)

      a. The button’s behind the outward swing of the door, so you have to push it while quickly moving away from behind the door swing while rapidly moving forward to get through the opening before the door starts to close.

    4. Time out (because the poor button needs a break every now and then, right?)

      a. The push button doesn’t work because the on/off switch, which is located above the door frame and thus out of the wheelchair user’s reach, has been turned to “off." Particularly fun when no one’s around to turn it back on.

    5. Which button is it? (Bonus points because your first choice is always wrong)

      a. So many buttons in such strange order that you’re not sure which one to push (again, see photo)
      b. Well, here’s a solution: signs or arrows indicating which door each button is connected to.
      c. Here’s another: relay-time series doors in small vestibules so that one button opens both doors.

I’m kicking myself (again, mentally) for not having more photos of these problems. I take pictures all the time, so I’m going to correct this oversight.

In the meantime, Jeff, I hope I’ve adequately addressed your request. If not, please write again. This column is meant to help everyone, so we’ll all benefit from the interaction.

I do believe that most people sincerely want to increase access for everyone. Virtually all of these problems stem from the designer not having personally experienced these obstacles, not from their indifference.

Best wishes for all of you. Keep the questions coming!



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About the Blogger

Michele Ohmes

thumbnail image Michele S. Ohmes is an Americans with Disabilities Act specialist and wheelchair user who works with public works departments, facility managers, and contractors. Her design manual — ADA and Accessibility: Let's Get Practical — is available on CD-ROM through the American Public Works Association's Web site. Author's note: Michele & Associates does not render legal advice and has no enforcement authority regarding the ADA or other federal disability-rights legislation.