Most people do not need to consider the danger of steps and uneven surfaces as they go through their day. However, for those who experience challenges to their mobility, seemingly minor details often make a world of difference. Handrails for steps are a prime example of this concept.
Handrails are a crucial part of any accessible home or building and with good reason. Well-designed handrails offer support and stability while going up or downstairs. Rails are also a valuable safety feature for ramps and flat surfaces as well as places that are often wet or slippery. Australian standards guide the best use for handrails.
When are Handrails Required?
Western Australia has several guidelines for handrails and when rails are required.
- Australian Standards – Handrails must be in place when a staircase has a minimum of four risers and three treads. Generally, with this amount of steps, the distance from the ground to the top of a staircase is one meter.
- Australian Standards – Outdoor staircases require handrails when there are a minimum of four risers and three treads. The distance from the top of a four-riser staircase to the ground is approximately one meter.
- Height of Handrails – The height of handrails measured from the floor shall be no less than 865 mm. A handrail on a landing must be a minimum of 1000mm.
What Differences Are There Between Outside and Inside Handrails?
In Western Australia, indoor and outdoor handrails are required for steps with at least four risers and three treads. However, you should choose your handrail material carefully.
- Stainless Steel – Using durable stainless steel is a preferred choice by many people. It is strong and requires little upkeep. Using a more decorative metal, such as wrought iron, is fine as long as it does not compromise the integrity of the handrail.
- Timber and Stone – While timber and stone look wonderful as handrails, the function must be the first concern when doing an accessibility project. Timber is known to crack over time, posing a serious fall risk for those who need a handrail to pull up. Stone is not ideal for gripping and pulling up steps. Both materials will require waterproofing and other maintenance.
Timber is a popular choice for interior rails. It is durable, and you can choose a finish to harmonise with the rest of the décor. A critical issue to watch for is the loosening of the wall anchors. During years of use, especially pulling, the strain becomes evident. Also, timber expands and contracts so that gaps may appear based on humidity. For this reason, timber railings of any kind are not advised for use in bathrooms or wet rooms. Make a point of doing a safety check of your handrails (and all of your accessibility features) regularly.
Stainless steel is a must for indoor areas with humidity and fluctuating temperatures. Inspect the anchoring of stainless steel handrails to ensure the anchors are not loosening. The bars can be lightly textured to assist with gripping.
When Can The NDIS Help With Handrails?
Since 2016, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has helped scores of mobility-challenged Australians. By funding changes, NDIS helps those who qualify to be safer and more independent in their homes. In turn, the improved safety dramatically impacts how mobility-challenged individuals can lead their lives on their terms.
In the case of handrails, the degree of assistance provided is vastly undervalued. However, the value is immeasurable to those who lack the physical strength to climb a few stairs. Because of handrails, they can enjoy the new freedom of simply going outside their home without assistance or fear of falling and being injured.
The usefulness of handrails is not limited to the elderly or those diagnosed with various progressive illnesses that restrict their ability to move around their homes safely. Those recovering from surgery or injuries and people with balance problems like Vertigo find sturdy handrails exceptionally helpful. Handrails prove very useful for anyone trying to walk across slick surfaces as well.
The proper handrails can make a significant difference in the quality of life for a person who struggles with mobility. Likewise, handrails funded by the NDIS must meet their standards. However, shoddy rails that do not meet standards are a disaster waiting to happen. (This paragraph is a bit of a shocker. Probably best to delete it. Doesn’t flow at all)
If you are not positive that your handrails are safe or if you need rails installed, reach out to AccessAble Home Modifications. We frequently work on NDIS modifications and are well acquainted with their requirements. Our team of mobility experts will work with you to ensure the proper installation of your rails as well as your safety.