Have you ever thought about how long an elevator’s doors ought to stay open? I have thought about this several times over the past few years and just wrote a long overdue email to property management in my condo.
Beyond the uncluttered views of this lakeside condo, I chose to move here for single-floor living and easy-to-access amenities (if visiting, you can pick up dinner, wine, and chocolate right downstairs!) because I was afraid of how multiple sclerosis (MS) might rear its head. Having had four attacks in as many years, the last one inviting me to walk with a 15-year old baby-stroller for support (the stroller came with cargo space and I was happier to look liked I’d misplaced a child more than that I needed a walker 🤔), I had definitely noticed that the elevator doors closed very quickly but never thought to do anything about it.
That was until I came to know a fellow resident who experiences MS more severely than I do. My friend – let’s call her Jean, rolls in a wheelchair or scooter. Several months ago, we chatted about the challenge she faced because of the quick-closing elevator doors. I decided that I would write to our board to request they be slowed down. Since then, I have noted many times when I would have benefitted from extra time. Any time I have heavy shopping bags, or new planters for the patio that I have to set down while I’m waiting for the elevator, I need more time to be able to pick them up and get to the available car. I have also spoken with a few residents who agreed that it would be helpful.
Today, I decided to start investigating what we are dealing with and what, if anything is legislated.
First, I timed the door:
a) 2.4 seconds to open
b) 2.5 seconds fully open
c) 2.8 seconds to close
Then, I measured the distance from the elevator call button in my hallway to the furthest elevator. Over 12 feet (3.66 m).
Have a look at just how quick it is…
I started to investigate regulations that should inform what we do. I keep hearing about accessibility legislation so didn’t think it would be very difficult.
Not so fast.
Yes, we have the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, established in 2006 and as of today, adopted by 183 nations, one of which is Canada.
But what do we have in my country of Canada, my province of Ontario, and my city of Toronto to help guide us? After all, jurisdiction matters if you want to look to legislation as a lever. From a building code perspective, the provinces determine what we must do for safety but touch lightly on accessibility. One recent change, for example, is that sensors must not only detect what is between the doors, they must detect an approaching object. I could find no mention of door opening time. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is slowly building standards to which organizations with over 50 people must adhere. Accessibility, it seems, is left to the cities to guide and these guidelines vary. In a condo, you are at the mercy of the condo board.
Here’s some of what I found:
The U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act standards of 2010 state that elevator doors must be open for a minimum of 5 seconds. It offers a formula to augment that duration based on the distance one would need to travel to reach the door after pressing a call button. In this case, 8 seconds would be warranted. Brock University and the City of London (Ontario) stipulate 8 seconds without regard to distance.
The City of Toronto’s 2021 Accessibility Design Guidelines have simpler guidance: “Have a minimum period of 5 seconds before the doors start to close if it is a hall call, and 3 seconds if it is a car call.” The hall call assumes that 2 seconds will enable you to cover whatever the distance is to the elevator. It also does not clarify if this is from the start of the doors opening or from the doors being fully open.
I’m curious to see what action will be taken. Torontonians are known for being impatient and often in a rush so I expect that there will be some resistance to making a shift. In fact, the city worker I spoke to suggested the sensors should take care of it because they would sense a body or wheelchair in the way of the doors. So not good enough! Why should someone have to sense doors closing on them as a matter of course?
Many changes have been made to improve accessibility that benefit far more than folks in wheelchairs. Take the curb cuts I talked about with Peter Shankman in episode 19 of the Happy Space Podcast, for example.
I invite you to notice what is inaccessible in your world and consider what small steps you might take to open the world up a little for those who face barriers.
I’ll keep you posted on what the board says by updating this post when I have an answer and also by sharing it in my monthly missive, “the museletter”. Sign up here to stay in the know.
In the meantime, go be an ally. We will all benefit.