This article will explore the use of powered door operators to make equipment or “garage” entrances to work places and outbuildings accessible to people with disabilities. There is no reason a person who can enter and exit their home with ease should be shut out of the workshop. With powered door openers, equipment operators with mobility impairments benefit in several ways. First, with a remote control push button they do not need to climb off of the payloader or out of the truck to open the shed doors, and second they do not have to push heavy doors while trying to walk. Powered door openers also help workers with arm impairments because they do not need to reach overhead and pull on a chain to raise/lower doors or push a heavy sliding door. As with any equipment, maintenance is critical to keep rollers sliding freely on door tracks as shown on this video.
Two typical equipment door styles for outbuildings are sliding doors on barn-door track rollers and overhead doors on oversized ‘garage door’ tracks. Overhead doors are typically used on the end of narrow buildings without space to slide wide doors. Overhead doors are manually opened by pulling on a long chain with a hand-over-hand motion to crank the door up or down. Workers with arm amputations, rotator cuff injuries or other upper extremity limitations cannot reach up and pull the overhead door chain with two arms, as shown on this video. The solution is a heavy-duty industrial door opener installed on the existing overhead door. This can typically be accomplished for around $1000 by local installers, and you see in this video what a difference it makes!
Sliding doors are very popular on outbuildings because they are lower cost for wide and tall door openings needed for heavy machinery. They are pushed open by hand while walking. Workers with mobility impairments often have difficulty sliding the doors open while trying to walk, especially when wind is blowing and causing the door to sway side-to-side. If the rollers and tracks on the sliding doors are not maintained, the doors will drag and may become impossible for a worker to slide open without full strength.
Propel Doors has recently designed a powered sliding door opener that can open and close existing sliding doors with the push of a button. By using the existing doors, the cost of upgrading to a powered opening door is often less than ½ the price of converting to an overhead door. An electric motor and chain system is mounted inside the building at the top of the door. The chain pulls the doors open and shut while a special track mounted on the floor of the building prevents the wind from blowing the door sideways.
While the focus of this blog is workshop door openers, there are really 3 strategies to helping people with limited mobility to enter the workplace independently: 1) Build new facilities with universal design; 2) Install ramps or lifts on existing entrances having steps; and 3) Install powered door operators on facility doors. Powered door operators are frequently used in industry on heavy factory doors and in grocery stores on exit doors used by people with arms full of merchandise. While these are not installed as assistive technology for people with limited mobility, they will serve that purpose.
Man doors, or “walk-through” doors can be outfitted with power openers from Open Sesame or even by using a dairy parlor door opener designed for sliding heavy-duty doors up to 44” wide. With the technology described to open sliding doors, overhead doors and man doors, there is no reason a person who can enter and exit their home with ease should be shut out of the shed or workshop!