I’m old school. I was brought up with doors that I had to operate myself. The worst of these were the killer doors into the market. Yeah, they may well be grade 2 and intrinsic to the Victorian building, but, for a blind man like me, they are up there with the unidirectional beeping of lorry reversing – “Where is it reversing to?” – or having to walk into a busy road around an inconsiderately parked vehicle on the pavement because the road is too busy to park on.
Let me describe how these doors were. Across one entrance, there were two sets of ten foot high wood and glass doors, and they swung both ways. I reckon they weighed at least fifteenstone each. Usually, someone coming out would push one door and someone going in would push the other, then they would swing back and forth a few times before settling in the closed position. It’s that scissor action that scares me. For me to find these doors, I have to stick my arm out. If I time it well, it will be right in the middle when the swing has swung. Thankfully, it never happened, but it was still scary.
So, what was the solution? The Council spent a lot of money making these doors automatic sliding doors. Now I can visit my friendly butcher, baker and candlestick maker with no fear. Ok, I was kidding about the candlestick maker. Candles and blindness literally get on like a house on fire.
Anyway, back to the automatic doors. I walk up to the door and listen for the hum of them opening. That’s like a hum of pleasure to me. You know the one, Think Homer Simpson and beer. The Star Trek swish would have been nice, but I’m happy with the hum of pleasure.
These automatic doors weren’t just put in place to please me. Well, they might have been, but the added bonus is that they are great for everyone else. Imagine, you’re a dad with twins in a buggy coming up to those killer doors, or a frail elderly lady loaded down with shopping bags. Or maybe a fit young rugby player with a busted ankle making his way on crutchesor a covid conscious student trying not to touch anything. Those automatic doors are pretty much essential.
There are automatic doors that I don’t like. Well, I’d call them semi-automatic. Yeah, some motor does the work of actually opening them, but sometimes I come up to doors that just don’t open. Pushing doesn’t work. Kicking doesn’t either, but it relieves a little frustration. I’ve been close to shouting, “Open sesame” just to prove a point. Yup, you’ve guessed it. There’s a button to push to open those doors. How the hell am I supposed to find that button to press to open? Logically, it’s on the wall to one side of the door. Equally logically, it’s at a height that a wheelchair user can hit it or else what’s the point? So, I’ve got a 50/50 chance of finding the button or of looking like an idiot fondling a wall.
Still, automatic doors are not just useful for situational, permanent, or temporary disabilities. Automatic doors are just nice. I must confess to feeling a bit of magical power, a bit like royalty, or just a bit special when they open at my presence. Am I the only one? Bet I’m not.
By the way, if you want to see what those market doors were like, they still have a set that lead out to the arcade. I don’t know why. Perhaps they’re trying to preserve the originallook, or someone in the Council has a grudge against me, but only a one in eight sporting chance sort of grudge (there are eight sets of doors).