In 1990 congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and President George H. W. Bush signed it into law. It prohibits discrimination against Americans on the basis of disabilities, which I believe to be an honorable goal. I work at the Human Nutrition Research Center, which is operated by the United States Department of Agriculture, and we have made quite a few changes to our physical building since 1990 in response to ADA.
See this big button? You have probably seen it around your town in public places: It’s a handy device that opens doors, and holds them open for 20 seconds, allowing people in wheel chairs to pass through. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to attempt to pass through a heavy metal door while sitting in a wheel chair. I’m sure these power doors have made public buildings much more accessible to handicapped people, and that is a wonderful improvement!
Our research center has four power openers in use; three with large buttons to bump and one with a motion detector that automatically opens the door whenever someone approaches it. Most of the employees that work at the Human Nutrition Research Center, however, bump these buttons every time they pass through the doors that have them. Almost everyone walks up to the doors, bumps the buttons, and wait for them to open before passing through. There are a few of us who grab the handle, and open the door with our arms, the old fashioned way, but it feels as though we are dinosaurs about ready to be bumped off.
I’m sure the electrical usage for each opening is relatively insignificant, but when there are perhaps a thousand bumps of the buttons each day, I’m sure the costs add up. I really cringe when people bump the two buttons for the front doors before walking in, allowing 20 seconds of heat to escape directly outside each time they enter and leave the building. Those are extremely costly bumps during a North Dakota winter!
Let’s leave all power doors for those that the Americans with Disabilities Act intended to use them: Americans with disabilities! Doesn’t it just make sense to not bump the button?