Life in an ongoing quarantined world means that many of us will remain at home for the foreseeable future. We live in a challenging time, and the space in which we live is a large part of our visual landscape each day. As a result, many of us may have become more observant of the spaces we occupy, and how we can more comfortable live within them.
In our latest blog, MGAC Consultant Jhoana Colorado explores the concept of household thresholds through new eyes, as how the realities of living through the pandemic have coerced many to shift their perspectives and approaches to accessibility.
Understanding home threshold limitations
As I spend more time at home, I’ve become more aware of the accessibility downsides of my space. It’s become evident that most of the doors in my home do not have a level threshold, and the balcony has a set-down. Working as an Access Consultant and being confronted with the limits of my own home has exacerbated how I view access and its requirements. It has also made me think about the approach to my work as an Access Consultant.
All of this thinking has been exacerbated by the fact have a temporary bicycle rider injury that is affecting my mobility. Injuries such as an ankle sprain are common, unexpected, and sometimes unavoidable. A sudden movement or simply twisting the wrong way can create mild or a great deal of pain making it harder to use doors without a threshold level and balconies with a set-down. So, imagine how much of an impact this has on a daily basis, for wheelchair users and those with sensory disabilities. Smooth floor transition surfaces, hobless balcony thresholds, showers and lifts are so important.
In terms of balconies or outdoor areas, AS4654.2 (Standards Australia) acknowledges that, at times, conditions will not allow a set-down, such as when wheelchair access is required. This means that only a wheelchair accessible unit is required to have a flush threshold.
While this is not the end of the world, it does raise some questions and issues. For example, when I’m looking for a new place, a level threshold will be a necessity. As I’ve experienced recently, thresholds count, especially as I plan to keep riding my bike for as long as I can.
At MGAC, we always recommend that our clients ensure major items are addressed at early stages so that estimated costs can be foreseen prior to the tender process.
This process helps to reduce surprises before being presented at construction certification stages. At the tender stage, it is important that the budget is fixed to the most accurate extent possible. That is why, when choosing specifications for floor transition plates, door sills, door sills with ribbed profiles and threshold ramps, we ask our clients to consider:
· Does the fixture perform properly for its intended user and use?
· Does it comply with the AS1428.1 and BCA requirements (as minimal compliance)?
When providing these specifications, every detail counts. Consideration must be given by architects, designers and builders when choosing door tracks, threshold plates, door sills and other threshold elements. The entire accessibility team needs to be vigilant when working with suppliers to ensure that their products are compliant. Often, non-compliant items can be inaccurately claimed as compliant. There are cases where the specification parameters of suppliers do not align with the standard requirements.
At MGAC, we are committed to assisting clients and associated parties by assessing and responding to Request for Information (RFI’s). This helps to minimise errors when using non-compliant products that could jeopardise achieving Deemed-to-Satisfy (DtS) compliance. For example, we ask pointed questions such as:
· Does the situation need a Performance Based Solution, D3 or D2 depending on the building type and the transitions or threshold locations?
Following the National Construction Code
The National Construction Code (NCC) sets out requirements for access and egress provisions in all new buildings. Volume 1 of the NCC covers building Classes 1b to 10 and sets out additional requirements for access for people with a disability under Part D3.
Where it is not possible to recess or remove a threshold, a threshold ramp offers a practical solution. This must have a maximum gradient of 1 in 8, a maximum length of 280mm and a maximum rise of 35mm.
If the outdoor weather is a concern, grated drains can be installed to provide a level entrance to most thresholds. The narrow profile minimises impact on design, allowing seamless integration between internal and external areas – perfect for creating seamlessly combined indoor and outdoor spaces or for minimising transition while achieving water protection.
Every threshold is a critical component and a key linkage to all areas of the building both internally and externally.
More than ever, there is a need to re-assess the building environment and the motivation that shapes it. The ideal outcome is a space that is designed holistically and actively works to improve the experience of diverse users from all walks of life.
At MGAC, we work with dozens of clients towards this all, all with a sustainable approach that embraces the full meaning of access and the ways in which it connects us. Construction industries need to move forward collectively and make access a higher priority for the benefit of all users, residents and citizens.