A common design feature in many commercial lobbies are grand stair cases. Many times, the grand stair is open on all sides, to feature its structural beauty. Grand stairs are typically curved or done in a way that it gives the lobby a sense of elegance.
One thing architects and designers don’t think about is what happens with their visually impaired patrons who will not see the back of the stair? The open structure below the stair is a design feature, but because a blind person who uses a cane to find their way around will only detect an object that is mounted lower than 27” , the stair treads that are above 27” and below 80” will be a hazard since they are not detectable.
A client of mine called them “head knockers”. I thought that was pretty appropriate. Architects and designers are problem solvers. They love a challenge, especially when it comes to being creative with a solution to a possible design issue. There are many ways that I’ve seen these head knockers get resolved. Below are just a few of the one’s that I have seen.
This stair does not have a cane detection element, so it is a hazard to my poor husband, oops, I mean poor man that is running into it
Some designers use planters
Some don't want to call attention to the cane detection barrier rail , so they use a curb instead. This one is 4" tall. Although this is technically cane detectable it is not detectable by distracted people who could trip on it
Putting furniture is not a good solution, since it can be moved
At a retail store, placing the back of the stair where there is no circulation path could work
A simple and elegant rail that mimicks the design of the stair
This one is at the University of North Texas and the rail is a nice green and white which are their school colors. Very spirited
This was a good attempt with low fixed bench type seating. The problem with this one is that is still open and able to be accessed by a blind person who would not detect the barriers on either side of the open stair.
In general, this type of issue could be a great opportunity for great designers to solve.....