Tips for Improving Access to Your Facility this Winter

wheelchair access in winter

For Canadians living with physical disabilities, winter presents even more barriers to mobility and independence than usual. Ontario’s accessibility push is improving access to buildings, but many of the updated regulations cover renovation and new construction projects only, and they don’t address the specific challenges of winter.

While the province continues to work toward full accessibility, facility managers and store owners can do a number of things to help mobility-challenged patrons get through winter.

Improving Accessibility Starts at the Front Door

Preferred by an overwhelming majority of the public, automatic door openers provide safe and convenient access to a wide variety of buildings—from stores and restaurants to condominiums and healthcare facilities. Given the popularity of automatic doors, it can be easy to forget that their primary purpose is to serve the needs of people challenged by manual door systems.

For those living with disabilities, automatic doors aren’t just a matter of convenience, they’re a necessity. Winter only complicates things further by raising obstacles such as snow and ice.

If your facility offers automatic entry, you’re probably already taking steps to clear the doors of these obstacles, especially considering the potential liability issues. But some ways to help are less obvious. For example:

  • Make sure access to the door-opening mechanism (commonly a push-plate switch) remains unobstructed.
  • Inside, be sure to use a low-level loop pile carpet, which can prevent safety issues with wheelchair travel.
  • Keep up with maintenance of your automatic doors to prevent service interruptions (some models also come with battery backup).
  • Be vigilant about clearing access to the door throughout the day, as even a small amount of tracked or blowing snow can become a hindrance to seniors or someone with a mobility aid.
  • Pay extra attention to clearance around handicap parking spaces after a snowfall.
  • When salting or clearing an access ramp of snow, be sure to use a sufficient amount of grit to accommodate the wide variety of wheelchairs and other factors (in a CMHC study on accessibility, participants complained about a general lack of friction-enhancing material on wheelchair ramps.)
  • Ensure your lighting and egress hardware are capable of providing safe conditions, including good visibility to accommodate individuals with vision or mobility impairments.
  • For added support, integrate an intercom system that enables remote assistance.

If your facility doesn’t already offer automatic entry, you may want to consider upgrading to provide a better, safer form of access for all individuals. Some automatic door openers can even be retrofitted onto existing doors, for easy and cost-effective installation.

You can also find products better suited to the harsh conditions of Canadian winters. The Hunter HA-8 Autoswing Operator is designed with challenges like cold, wind and snow in mind. Over time, its low-energy operation can also help you cut down on heating and cooling costs, without compromising performance or reliability.

For more information, view our lineup of automatic door openers or contact us for help improving access to your facility. As AAADM certified technicians, we will carefully assess your needs and find the ideal solution for you with no cost or obligation.

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