Doorway accessibility in non-residential multiple occupancy buildings - a beginner's guide to disability allowance

Disabilities are wide ranging and varied. Much unlike the international symbol of access that depicts an individual in the wheelchair, there are many disabilities that cannot be seen and extend far beyond wheelchair use.

Simon Osborne, commercial leader of Allegion in UK & Ireland, highlights what locksmiths and building managers need to know on disability regulations for doors, what hardware and furniture to use and where, and best practice and design guidance.

Disabilities are wide ranging and varied. Much unlike the international symbol of access that depicts an individual in the wheelchair, there are many disabilities that cannot be seen and extend far beyond wheelchair use.

Therefore, when we look at accessibility and complying with disability regulations in multiple occupancy buildings, it is truly a minefield – even when just focusing on one aspect of the building, like the doorway. There are many matters for consideration, from a door’s operation and size to the level threshold, signage and visibility, automation controls, door controls and more.

In the main when looking at disability compliance, it is Approved Document M, Volume 2, ‘Access to and use of buildings – buildings other than dwellings’ which must be adhered to. As well as this, the Equality Act BS 8300 standards is also considered applicable to existing as well as new buildings and extensions.

Design and Access Statements

A provision that Approved Document M stipulates for multiple occupancy buildings is that Design and Access Statement (DAS) must be produced for building control officers (BCOs).

In short, a DAS is an explanation of ‘how access and facilities for people with disabilities and others have been addressed in a particular scheme’.

The statement will allow BCOs to assess whether reasonable and/or suitable provision has been achieved. Of course, it will vary in size dependent on the type and scale of the development, but it should generally include the following elements wherever relevant:

·       Description of proposed works and the intended use of the building

·       Access design philosophy on the scheme

·       Sources of advice and guidance

·       Evidence of any consultation with the council’s access officer or the local access group

·       Description of the building

·       Key issues of the scheme

·       Current access provisions

·       Proposed areas for improvement

·       Areas not proposed for improvement and/or reasons why an alternative approach has been adopted

One of the most important points of the DAS for locksmiths is that they show evidence of sources of advice and guidance from door hardware providers, especially in retrofit schemes.

Matters for consideration

While the general facilities, site and building managers must look into disability access matters across the whole building (or buildings), a locksmith is more specialist.

To comply with regulations, locksmiths must now be able to discern between different entrances and doors, and, crucially, what their functions pertinent to the building are.

Matters for consideration to disability compliance will include:

·       Whether entrances are primary or secondary

·       Doors and their functions, operation, size, controls and automation

·       Aids for hearing impaired people

·       The visibility of signage, making sure size and contrast is adequate for people with impaired vision

·       Usability of the building and facilities

·       Management arrangements for assisted access and means of escape

·       Special considerations will need to be given to listed buildings, development in conservation areas and other buildings or spaces of special interest.

Only after considering these points should a locksmith be able to give advice on compliant door hardware.

Specific Door Requirements

Much consideration must also be given to specific entrances and their requirements, as well as what hardware can be used on these doorways.

Accessible Entrances

Accessible entrances should be clearly signposted and should include the international symbol of access from the edge of the site. The principal entrance should be clearly signposted if this is not the accessible entrance.

The entrance should have a level landing of at least 1500mm by 1500mm clear of any door swings immediately in front of the entrance. The material of the entrance should not impede wheelchair users.

Door entry systems need to be accessible to the deaf, hard of hearing and people who cannot speak, so they should have a clear LED display fitted between 750mm and 1000mm from floor level.

Doors to Accessible Entrances

Doors on accessible entrances can be manually operated, or power operated under manual or automatic control.

Doors on accessible entrances should also have vision panels. The minimum zone of visibility should be between 500mm and 1500mm from floor level.

If necessary, the vision panels should be interrupted between 800mm and 1150mm from floor level to accommodate a horizontal grab-rail.

Manually Operated Non-Powered Doors

A non-powered door fitted with a self-closing device that is capable of closing the door against wind forces and also the resistance of draught seals is unlikely to be openable by a wheelchair user or someone with limited strength.

Choose door closers equipped with a cam action as this will lower the force required to open the door and thus meet the BS 8300 Equality Act standard. From Allegion, the Briton 2300 series and Briton 2700 series are both capable closers in this respect.

Also know that the opening force from the leading edge of the door should not exceed 30 Newtons from 0-30 degrees, and should not exceed 22.5 Newtons from 30-60 degrees of the opening cycle.

Powered Entrance Doors

For entrance doors that are powered, the manual control these doors should be clearly distinguishable from the background, and located between 750mm and 1000mm from the ground level (to include swipe cards etc.).

If the powered entrance door requires access control, linking powered closers to access control systems, such as the Briton 2500 powered series to SimonsVoss access control systems, is a solution.

If the doors swing toward people approaching them, then visual and audible warnings should be provided. The doors should incorporate a safety stop if someone is passing through, and either revert to manual control or stay open in the event of a power failure.

Internal Doors

Design considerations for internal doors are similar to those for entrance doors and can be applied in the same way.

The force needed to open the door manually should not exceed 30 Newtons at any point in the full opening cycle.

The design of the door is also important. It should be distinguishable from the adjacent facades, as should the ironmongery (for example, pull handles) used on the door.

Also note that lever-style handles are preferable to knob sets for disability compliance. The Briton 4200 series and Briton 4700 series are examples of Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant handles.

Tonal Contrast and Colour

Tonal contrast and colour is vitally important so that people with visual impairments can operate and distinguish door features easier.

The entrance door should contrast visually with its immediate surroundings and should be well lit and clearly signed. It should not have a mirrored finish, according to BS 8300: 2009 6.1.2.

For easy identification by blind and partially sighted people, all door opening furniture should contrast visually with the surface of the door.

Light Reflectance Value (LRV) should be used to assess the degree of visual contrast between surfaces such as floors, walls, doors and ceilings as well as between key fittings/fixtures and surrounding surfaces.

Allegion’s Normbau range of door furniture can provide a more visual contrast with the doors, specifically providing different LRVs to assist visually handicapped people.

To help identify key objects within sanitary accommodation, support rails and grab-rails should also contrast visually with the wall, and with fittings and accessories should contrast visually within the background against which they are seen.

Normbau’s Cavere range is specifically designed for sanitary accommodation in multiple occupancy buildings and also contains an antibacterial treatment which prevents the transmission of a range of contaminants and thus prevents infection from being passed on.

Egress and Escape Routes

The safe evacuation of all potential users of the building is a vitally important consideration for locksmiths and building managers.

When considering means of escape in case of fire, the ultimate consideration is the amount of time it will take for a person to travel from a place threatened by fire to a place of safety.

We should stress that disability is not an absolute measure of mobility.

For instance, evacuation tests have previously shown that wheelchair users were able to evacuate premises before ambulant people with walking aids. The tests showed wheelchair users did not generally impede or impose any delay on the able-bodied people. However, it was the ambulant person using a walking frame who was the source of the most serious impediment to the process of the evacuation.

Fire doors, particularly those in corridors, should be held open with an electro-magnetic device. They should self-close when:

·       Activated by a smoke alarm or fire alarm;

·       The power supply fails;

·       They have been activated by a hand-operated switch.

Thresholds should be level with adjacent floor finishes for wheelchair users, while the width of escape routes and exits should be sufficient to accommodate the evacuation of mixed-ability occupancies.

Fire doors to individual rooms should be fitted with swing-free devices that close when activated by smoke detectors, fire alarms and power failures. The Briton 996 series is an example of this type of electro-mechanical closer.

Sanitary Facilities

At least one cubicle in same sex toilets should be designed for ambulant disabled people.

Where there are four or more cubicles, one of these should be enlarged for use by people who need extra space, with a minimum width of 1200mm in these toilets.

For door hardware and furniture, the locksmith should be aware that:

·       Door handles and other ironmongery should comply with the provisions for internal doors.

·       Doors to WC compartments, and wheelchair accessible unisex toilets, changing or shower rooms, should be fitted with light action privacy bolts so they can be operated by people with limited dexterity. If required to self-close then they should be openable with a force no greater than 30 Newtons.

·       Any fire alarm should emit a visual and audible signal, again to assist visually impaired or the hard of hearing.

A Helping Hand

Complying with Approved Document M and BS 8300 may seem complex, but door hardware in today’s world has been developed with many different disabilities in mind. Electro-mechanical ‘smart’ hardware can now be integrated with other systems and ranges to create a safer and more secure environment for all.

If help is required on disability compliance in multiple occupancy buildings, please speak to Allegion experts who will be happy to help on 0121 380 2400.


About Allegion™

Allegion (NYSE: ALLE) is a global pioneer in safety and security, with leading brands like CISA®, Interflex®, LCN®, Schlage®, SimonsVoss® and Von Duprin®. Focusing on security around the door and adjacent areas, Allegion produces a range of solutions for homes, businesses, schools and other institutions. Allegion is a $2 billion company, with products sold in almost 130 countries.

For more, visit


For Media Contact Information:

Ricco Leung :
T : +44 (0) 121 708 2466


Clare Vandaele :
T : +44 (0) 121 380 2458