You might be surprised to learn that there are actually a number of situations in which a particular staircase design might be inappropriate. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the design visually or in terms of compliance and safety, the staircase simply may not complement the intended users or location. In this article, we have outlined some of the situations that may be considered inappropriate with an explanation of why this is the case.
- Elderly/Mobility Challenged
It is important to remember that staircases are inherently more dangerous than level walkways and ramps, so there are some situations in which they should never be used. The elderly, for example, have more stair-related accidents than anyone else. They are also more easily injured and the consequences of such injuries are more severe. Similar can be said for those with mobility challenges.
It almost goes without saying that alcohol may induce problems with agility, stamina, mobility and reaction time. People who are intoxicated may have an awkward gait or use the handrail as a crutch. The slow motion with which they walk also makes even greater demands on balance skills than usual and actually increases the likelihood that a person will completely lose their balance.
So, how can staircase designs be made more appropriate or altered to ensure the safety of the elderly, mobility challenged and intoxicated? Firstly, where feasible, stairs should not be the sole means of access in such locations. Secondly, an alternative means of access (such as a ramp or elevator) should be provided.
Staircases are sometimes placed in a location where they may not be noticed. This can often lead to people falls, as people were not expecting the stairs and were not prepared. Some people have fallen after opening doors that swing directly over the top steps. Others haven’t even been looking for the stairs but have fallen when searching for the bathroom or another area of the building.
- Visually Impaired
Those with little to no vision, deteriorating vision or pathological vision deficits may also struggle to see the staircase. This problem is made worse at night or if the stairs are shrouded in darkness. Even those who walk with the aid of a cane have been known to fall down the steps, especially if a door opens directly over the top or there is no other physical indication that the floor drops.
So, how can staircase designs be made more appropriate or altered to ensure the safety of the visually impaired and everyday passersby? Firstly, stairs should be located out of direct pedestrian walkways. Secondly, doors should not open directly onto the flight. Thirdly, they should be easily seen or illuminated.
Whilst there are certainly more situations in which a particular staircase design might be inappropriate, we have outlined four of the most common in the article above. We hope that the recommendations offered help you to ensure that the presence of stairs in your home or workplace is always safe for every type of person who may encounter them. If you are still having problems with the design, make sure you speak with a professional.