Products, Design

How Accessible Design Elements Can Benefit All Building Occupants

Designing for accessibility is often driven by compliance; however, a more inclusive design approach can result in products that are easier for everyone to use. 

Text messaging has been the dominant form of communication since the late 2000s, and its usage is steadily rising. According to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), Americans sent 2 trillion text messages in 2018, 5.5 billion texts per day or 63,000 texts per second. But did you know the system used for sending texts—short message service or SMS—was originally invented to give the hearing impaired a better way to communicate?

Not only is text messaging used by billions worldwide, it is the most frequent digital activity a person does. And it is a great example of how inclusive design can be a driver for human-centered innovation that has downstream benefits for us all.

To illustrate this point further, consider the curb ramp. It’s become a standard feature in public spaces. Altering sidewalks at intersections and store entrances was designed to make it possible for people with mobility issues to have easier access, but it’s also helpful when pushing a stroller, a shopping cart, or a dolly.

In the built environment, a more inclusive, user-centric design approach also can result in solutions that benefit everyone. Terrace and balcony doors are no exception. In multifamily housing projects, including traditional condos and nursing homes alike, balconies provide essential connections to the outside, particularly in dense, urban areas without green space; doors that require less effort to open ensure residents can access the space.

Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope’s new Terra Swing Access terrace door addresses this need by making the building exterior more accessible. Designed to current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, the door features a small 1/2″ threshold while also requiring 5 pounds or less operating force per the American Architectural Manufacturers Association’s (AAMA) 513 specification for easy access to outdoor spaces, such as balconies and terraces.

Terra Swing Access also offers water performance of 15 pounds per square foot on the 1/2” threshold with an integral 10” kick rail, an industry first, providing unparalleled water mitigation while also matching the performance of accompanying systems like window wall and curtain wall. Simultaneously, the door achieves U-factors as low as 0.39 using 0.24 center of glass.

Terra Swing Access comes ready for a simplified installation by sitting directly on the floor so concrete notching is not required to accommodate the threshold during installation, helping control lead times and costs. The low 1/2” threshold also features field-installed exterior trim that allows for a continuous exterior perimeter seal without relying on a blind seal.