Automatic Doors: Helping You Break Down Barriers to Accessibility (and Boost Business While Doing It)

Wheelchair icon symbolizing accessibility

Now that another National Access Awareness Week has come and gone (May 28 to June 3, in case you missed it), there’s a temptation to pat oneself on the back and shove the topic aside until next year. But creating accessible spaces takes a larger commitment—whether it means small changes like upgrading your business with automatic doors and wheelchair ramps, or going the extra mile to make individuals with disabilities feel welcome.

The state of accessibility in Toronto

In Canada it’s estimated that around 3.8 million adults are living with some form of disability. A significant share of those people live and work in high-density areas like Toronto, where accessibility issues tend to get more press and attention.

According to users of AccessNow, an app that maps out the accessibility of locations worldwide, so far there are approximately 1,500 fully accessible businesses and other facilities in Toronto. But nearly 1,000 other pinned locations fall short as inaccessible or only partially accessible.

AccessNow map of accessibility in Toronto

A map of accessibility in Toronto, as seen by users of the AccessNow app

What qualifies a location as accessible? For users of AccessNow in Toronto, “automatic doors” is one of the most popular tags. It’s also one of the accessibility design guidelines released by the City of Toronto for public buildings and institutions. Mississauga released its own set of guidelines called the Facility Accessibility Design Standards.

More recently, legislation has been pushing businesses in Toronto and throughout the province to improve access for customers and employees.

But the reality is that becoming compliant hasn’t been a smooth process. In part because the rules are complex, and also because they’re being implemented in waves.

there’s a strong business case to be made for accessibility

Planning for the future

Rules aside, there’s a strong business case to be made for accessibility. After all, removing barriers to your business is only going to open it up to more customers. And it wouldn’t hurt to gain positive exposure on sites like AccessTO and AccessNow, which will only become more popular.

The Forward Movement is pushing to change the way disability and accessibility are viewed in Ontario

Consider, too, the link between age and disability. According to a Stats Can survey from 2012, the overall rate of disability for Canadians aged 15 to 24 is 4.4%, while among those 65 and older it jumps to 33.2%.

That’s a significant share of the population that can benefit from automatic doors and barrier-free access. Especially as Canada’s demographic makeup changes and the share of seniors rises (the most recent census shows that seniors outranked children for the first time ever in Canada).

The Ontario Government also projects that by 2031, more than 6 million Ontarians will either be living with a disability or be 55 years of age or older. That share of the population will account for 40% of all income in the province.

Too large a number for any business to ignore.

How automatic doors can help

It’s easy to think of automatic doors as a solution solely for individuals with disabilities. But they make life easier for anyone who might struggle with access to a building or washroom, and even for those who simply prefer the convenience offered by automatic doors (in fact, research by the AAADM shows that 98.9% of consumers prefer automatic doors).

If you’re thinking of upgrading your business or facility, look beyond the front entrance for ways to improve accessibility. For example, as of 2015, barrier-free and universal washrooms—mandated for public areas of most buildings in Ontario—require power door operators for access (along with a host of other standards set out in the province’s Building Code).

For more tips on creating accessible washrooms and spaces, check out AccessTO, a non-profit organization working towards a barrier-free Toronto.

Tips for buying automatic doors

Globally, the demand for automatic doors is also on the rise. A report from Big Market Research puts the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the market at 5.71% between 2016 and 2020.

But why wait to upgrade?

In honour of National Access Awareness Week, here’s a list of things to look for when buying automatic doors:

1. Suitability to your application

Not all automatic doors are suited to all environments. High-traffic areas like shopping malls and hospitals may require heavy doors that are subjected to frequent usage. In cases like these you’ll need a door opener that won’t quit, even when things get tough.

Some door openers perform well even in harsh weather conditions like heavy wind, while others offer quiet operation.

If safety is a top priority, you may want to consider an opener with built-in error monitoring, or advanced sensors for better detection of people in the path of closing doors.

Likewise, if design is important, look for a less obtrusive option such as an overhead concealed configuration.

2. Sliding or swinging doors

Determining where and how the doors will be used can also help you decide which opening function works best. The two most popular types of automatic doors today are sliding and swinging.

Sliding doors usually function via sensor, which provides a more seamless experience for users. The horizontal opening motion of these automatic doors makes them a better fit for tight spaces.

Swinging doors sometimes also use a sensor, but more commonly work with a push plate or button. They can also function as a hybrid automatic and manual door opening solution, which adds a level of versatility.

As an added benefit, the ease of converting manual swinging doors to an automatic solution is attractive for those looking to keep costs down.

3. Trusted manufacturer

With the safety of your customers or the general public at stake, you want to be sure you’re getting high-quality automatic doors with reliable performance. Many products today can be retrofitted to manual doors for a more cost-effective solution, so you don’t have to sacrifice on quality.

Besam SW200i automatic door operator

Designed to seamlessly handle the many unforeseen conditions that exist in buildings (including wind or stack pressure), the Besam SW200i is a field-adaptable, low-profile operator that can be easily installed in new construction applications or retrofitted to most swing doors.

Look for reputable manufacturers that stand by their products. At ABC we carry automatic door opening solutions from brands such as Besam, Norton, Entrematic (formerly Hunter) and Camden Controls. We supply, install and maintain these products, so we’ve seen how they perform over time, and how well they work for our customers.

4. Energy efficiency

Many automatic doors available today come with energy-saving features. The goal might be the same but the technology varies—from low-energy operators and doors that self-generate enough power to charge the battery for 12 years, to advanced sensors that speed up door closing times and reduce lost airflow.

When you consider how many times a set of doors can operate in a single day, it’s easy to see how every eco-friendly innovation can add up to savings in the long run.

5. Don’t forget support and maintenance

As with any electromechanical device, even the most durable automatic door operator can wear down over time. Regular maintenance will keep your automatic doors performing at their best—that means they not only work at peak efficiency, they operate safely too.

If you choose a quality product and service partner, maintenance needs should be minimal. Look for a service provider with verifiable credentials such as certifications from industry bodies like AAADM (The American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers).

A reputable service provider should also have an inspection checklist that covers both the electronic and mechanical components of your automatic doors.

Taking the next step

Considering automatic doors for your business or building? Talk to the experts at ABC Security. As providers of complete door opening solutions, we can supply, install and maintain everything you need for your entrance or barrier-free washroom.

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