ADA, Older Buildings and the Locksmith

With extra effort and training, locksmiths can become accessibility and security experts.


Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, then put the legislation in action with a set of accessibility guidelines in 1992. ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government services, public...


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Actuators vary considerably. The most common automatic door actuator is the wall switch. Local codes may require the actuator switch to have a minimum surface area. The actuator switches for automatic doors typically have a brushed stainless steel surface to maintain a clean appearance while providing durability. It is best to connect the actuator switches to the door operator with low voltage wiring. However, it may not be practical to “hard wire” actuator switches in older buildings where thick concrete walls, marble fascia, asbestos, or fire walls prohibit drilling a path for the wires. Further, some building codes require all wiring to be in conduit, regardless of the voltage, making it impractical to run wire. In these applications, wireless controls may provide an ideal solution.

Door operator and accessory manufacturers provide wireless actuator switches and receivers. The switches are battery operated and must be serviced about every 12 to 18 months, depending on frequency of use. Older buildings may contain considerable concrete and steel reinforcement, which decreases the range of wireless controls. It may be prudent to run a test using a portable battery operated receiver and transmitter tester before “hardening” the installation. A piezo sounder connected to the receiver will quickly reveal if the signal is getting through. It may be necessary to locate the receiver several feet from the door operator to get reliable operation.

Motion sensors provide convenience in many applications. However, this writer discourages their use in all but special circumstances, such as doors used by hotel bellmen, facilities with a high population of disabled people, or in industrial process areas. It is better to provide actuator switches for low-energy door operators. Persons using the door deliberately operate the door by a “knowing act,” and have a choice as to whether to power the door or use it manually. The “knowing act” can increase security and safety while lowering energy costs.

An automatic door operator on a security door with a card reader has special needs. A building owner may ask that the card reader unlock and open the door. While this may appear to be a logical, it encourages “tailgating” and wastes valuable conditioned air. A low-energy automatic door operator keeps the door unlatched for a minimum of 13 seconds (four seconds to open, five-second hold, four seconds to close). It is better to unlock the door for manual use by people without disabilities. The door will be unlatched for about half the time required for automatic operation. Those who require assistance have the option to press the outside door actuator switch. After the door is closed and secure, the outside door actuator switch is disabled.

High-speed automatic operators (ANSI A-156.10 standard) typically found on retail stores, airports and hospitals should only be installed and serviced by factory trained and authorized technicians. Contractors’ licensing, insurance, and certifications to install these operators are quite different from those needed to install low-energy door operators. Locksmiths considering servicing these operators should contact the American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers (AAADM) to learn more about the enterprise before attempting installation or service of high speed automatic doors.

ADA legislation and local building codes with accessibility provisions require building owners to remove architectural barriers. Locksmiths are unique among the building trades because they work with doors, locking hardware, closing devices and electronics and are familiar with the characteristics of older buildings. Code mandated building improvements provide locksmiths with opportunities to better service their customers and expand their skill sets.

 

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