Steps gone wrong!
The steps above may look pleasing to the eye, but where are the handrails for people with mobility impairments (and children) where is a sloped alternative for wheelchair users (and people with pushchairs, trollies etc), and how can you tell where the edge is unless you have good vision?
These types of design errors – in countries where disabled people have equality laws – often are the cause of multiple lawsuits. In the UK its a basic requirement to have a colour contrasted edge to a step, without it, it is much easier for people to fall, and the Courts are on the side of the person falling.
Steps should not be the only way into a building or the only means of changing levels.
Where steps are present they should not act as a barrier to people’s access.
Sometimes designers begin with a good idea and then remove its purpose – colour contrasted nosings are part of the building regulations, they are required so visually impaired people and others know where the edge of a step is.
The photo below has mangled this idea, so that the steps look like one big Licorice Allsort. People with no visual impairments have been seen to stumble on these steps.
These steps (left) are in a Wolverhampton shopping centre – they create a lot of difficulty for visually impaired people and others, as it is very difficult to see where one step ends and another begins.
Part M of the Building Regulations(2004) states that
“People should be able to appreciate easily where to place their feet by highlighting nosings and avoiding open rises” (paragraph 1.30).
As you can see, these steps fail to meet the standard.
A positive element of these steps is that they do not have overhanging nosings – which also creates an obstacle. Part M points out that people who wear callipers or who have stiff hip or knee joints are particularly at risk of tripping through trapping the toes of their shoes beneath projecting nosings.
Part M and the British Standard 8300 note the importance of hand rails on both sides of external steps if the flight is of more than 2 steps. The handrail should be continuous, and should have a good gripable surface.
Flights of stairs should have a corduroy hazard surface at the top and bottom of the flight. See Tactile Surfaces for more information.