Explaining DDA and 'Safety handrails for disabled access compliant with the Equality Act 2010'

There are an estimated 11 million disabled people in Great Britain, making up around 18% of the overall population. With such a significant number of people requiring assistant access to buildings, it is hugely important that the facility is available.

Laws tackling the discrimination and inequality against disabled people in the UK have existed for a number of years: 

Equality Act 2010

In an attempt to enforce this issue, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was superseded by the Equality Act 2010, to simplify the law, remove inconsistencies and make it easier to understand and comply with.  This Act supports the existing Building Regulations.

These regulations state that 'reasonable steps' need to be taken to ensure disabled people are not at a disadvantage when accessing public buildings. What is reasonable will depend on all circumstances, including the cost of an adjustment, the potential benefit it might bring to visitors, the resources an organisation has, and how practical the changes are.

The Equality Act requires that property owners must think ahead and take steps to address obstacles that impede disabled people.  Previously, adjustments to premises had to be made only where it would otherwise be ‘impossible or unreasonably difficult’ for a disabled person to access the property.  Now, under the Equality Act, adjustments must be made where disabled people experience a ‘substantial disadvantage’. 

Under the old Disability Discrimination Act, it was possible for a building owner to legally justify failing to provide a reasonable adjustment in certain circumstances. Now, the only question is whether the adjustment is a reasonable one to make.

Building Regulation Approved Document M

A common solution can involve taking out physical structures like steps and replacing them with ramps, or simply providing handrails to aid wheelchair or other disabled users.  In these cases, the precise requirements set out in Building Regulation Approved Document M specify that handrail heights on all building stairways and ramps do not discriminate against any disability group.

On access ramp gradients, varying from 2 through to 5 degrees, handrails need to be positioned on both sides or centrally for a wide path, to allow a choice of which arm to use for support, they should be installed on both sides of the ramps that are longer than two metres . Where possible, handrails should extend 300mm beyond the top and bottom of the ramp or staircase.  The Building Regulations stipulate an outside diameter tube size for such installations of between 40mm-45mm, and must be offset in the case of a mid-height handrail.

Kee Access fittings

Architects and specifiers must satisfy these regulatory requirements, yet also be able to meet customer demands on building aesthetics and cost effective options.  This is really important on retrofit projects, where the time and cost involved in removing handrails and replacing with a new structure can seem incredibly expensive.

One option is to adapt the existing handrails to meet the requirements of Part M and the Equality Act.  Our Kee Access components are ideal for heavy traffic environments and allow both speedy and seamless retrofitting as well as hassle-free and simple installation in a new build.

The range is designed to be compatible with the Equality Act recommendations, using a handrail of with outside diameter of 42.4mm.  Kee Access fittings were developed with versatility, ease and speed of installation in mind. These fittings are ideal as a retrofit solution, because the range includes 'add-on' offset fittings to allow a new handrail to be added onto an existing structure of appropriate size.

When to powder-coat

The first reason is handrail must be a colour to contrast to its surroundings this is to assist the partial sighted to recognise that there is a handrail available.

Another reason is handrail is meant to be 'not cold to touch' (as opposed to the commonly incorrectly specified 'warm to touch')

So what’s the difference? In the 2005 edition of BS 8300 a note added to clause 5.10.1 puts the recommendation that handrails should not be 'cold to the touch' in context. It indicates that in parts of the country, which experience harsh winter weather conditions, external metal handrails can become extremely cold. In these circumstances, some people may be reluctant to use the handrail (or involuntary let go of the handrail) if it is uncomfortably cold, representing a safety hazard.

In extreme cases, a person's skin could adhere to a very cold handrail or the shock can, in some people, trigger an attack of Raynaud's disease. To minimise the effects of cold, handrails should be manufactured from materials with a low thermal conductivity, such as metal be coated with plastics or from materials such as wood.

Looking for a handrail solution for your project?

  • Kee Klamp galvanised steel handrails
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Can be configured to suit any space
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