Design for X

During Praxis I, I was able to apply my critical and analytical skills towards real life engineering problems and was required to critique them in tandem with my design process. As my design process was in its initial stages during those days, the quality of justification behind my claim and the diverging and converging tools used to make my decision was not as sophisticated. 

The following presents the real life situation I worked with, specifically Elevator design hence, “Design for Elevators”.

Lift up the elevators

Two of the six elevators located at 95 Thorncliffe Park Drive (Leaside Towers), Toronto have become a cause of disturbance to its residents. Many of its features cannot be explained by design for accessibility. In some aspects its current specifications fail to meet standard guidelines by a large margin.

Renovation was already underway for all 6 of the elevators after complains by residents increased regarding the elevators inability to act accordingly. One would think that a newly renovated elevator would fully meet all expectations but that was not the case as residents found out the day renovation was completed for the first elevator. This also led to an indirect comparison of how the old and new elevators were not 100% accessible.

Elevators are designed with a flat surface so that when the doors of the elevator car open they are level with the ground on the opposite side. This ensures that the transition between both sides is smooth and safe without the risk of the passenger tripping over or having trouble to move a wheelchair inside and out. The standards as set out by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) clearly point out how the platform of the car should be an automatic self-leveling piece with a maximum of ½” tolerance on either side. However, the newly designed elevators fail to meet this requirement as may be seen from the picture below:

Pic DFX
Figure 1[1] and 2[1]

The offset distance when measured from the elevator floor was found to be over 3 inches which is approximately 6 times more than the tolerance level allowed. And as can be clearly seen this distance may serve as a severe tripping hazard as well as an obstacle for any remotely controlled wheel chair to overcome.

Another observation led to the thought of the location of the buttons and the height they were located at inside the elevator. The lowest of the buttons was found to be too low for it to be able to be considered as an ample deisgn for accessibility. The ADA standard clearly lays down the statistics required for the minimum height of the elevator control buttons. The emergency controls must be a minimum of 35 inches of the surface of the elevator up to a maximum of 54 inches provided the building had over 16 floors. The lowest of the emergency controls located within the elevators of Leaside Towers fails to serve this purpose for accessibility.

The height measured was about 32 inches which is a significant drop of height considering 35 inches is considered an absolute minimum.
Furthermore, the mirrors on the side walls are considered to be hindrance to the activities of people in wheelchairs and scooters. The mirrors have continuously been a source of problems. These range from kids banging on the mirror after seeing their illusion multiple times as well as senior residents of the building having trouble of perception because of the sense of illusion created by the mirrors. The Ontario government under the “Guidelines for Barrier-Free Design of Ontario Government Facilities, 2.4.3 have stated that, “mirrors on sidewalls should not be permitted due to visual distractions and confusion” [2].

Pic DFX 4
The Leaside towers are surely in need of improving their design for accessibility for elevators as can be clearly seen from the data collected by this DFX walkabout.

Reference List

  1. Yanchulis, “Chapter 4: Elevators and Platform Lifts – United States Access Board”, Access-board.gov, 2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/about-the-ada-standards/guide-to-the-ada-standards/chapter-4-elevators-and-platform-lifts. [Accessed: 17- Apr- 2017].
  2. [Online]. Available: https://www1.toronto.ca/static_files/equity_diversity_and_human_rights_office/pdf/accessibility_design_guidelines.pdf. [Accessed: 17- Apr- 2017].