Melissa Lloyd-Williams of Intratone explores how access control technology can enhance building accessibility.
Accessibility continues to be an important issue for housing professionals. Affordable housing and private property managers alike, help tenants – with a wide variety of needs and requirements – carry out everyday tasks and live more independently. There are, however, still significant gaps in building accessibility across the country. According to figures, 91% of all UK homes do not provide even the lowest level of accessibility to make a residence ‘visitable’, requiring urgent action from the housing industry.
One way of effectively enhancing accessibility is through access control. Intercoms with the latest wireless technology make entry into residences seamless and intuitive for residents and their guests – while also preventing unwanted visitors from gaining entry. For those with visual and hearing impairments, as well as the elderly, harnessing the latest accessible technology is particularly beneficial too. But which features should housing professionals be looking for from their intercom systems? Here, we look at several key accessibility features and how they can help enhance both the tenant and visitor experience.
Choosing the right features
Audio induction loops are a helpful addition to intercoms, as they wirelessly transmit sound from the device in question to a person’s hearing aid. Visitors with hearing impairments can therefore communicate more easily when they visit tenants in the building. Those who have a hearing aid simply change it to the ‘T’ (Telecoil) setting to pick up the audio signal from the intercom. Users with compatible hearing aids can therefore cut out unwanted background noise – and improve audio communication quickly and easily too – without needing a receiver or a handset.
Meanwhile, the latest intercom keypads are designed to help make visiting tenants easier for the visually impaired. Devices with backlighting, for example, help users to locate and maintain visual attention, particularly in comparison with more muted varieties. Intercoms featuring yellow rings around the buttons also provide a sharper contrast for those with reduced vision – while the inclusion of Braille enables them to understand and ‘read’ which button is which. Plus, hands-free proximity readers are also a great addition to panels too – giving residents the ability to gain entry without the need to manually touch their key fob to the intercom. Another user-friendly feature is direct dialling. Scrolling intercoms mean visitors must search manually through every single entry on an intercom panel to find the right flat. However, systems with direct dialling functionality allow the user to simply push a button to get through to the tenant in question and call them directly. For this reason, direct dial intercoms are the perfect addition to large blocks with many more individual units than standard scrolling intercoms.
The latest intercom systems not only help the visual and hearing impaired, but wireless access control technology also brings benefits for the UK’s ageing population. People are living longer lives; in 2016 there were 1.6 million people aged 85 and over, and by mid-2041 this number is expected to double to 3.2 million. Improving accessibility will be key to helping these people lead safe and independent lives for longer – whether they choose to stay at home or move to sheltered housing or residential care.
The latest intercom systems are powered by GSM – the ‘Global System for Mobile Communications’ – or the same technology that powers mobile phone calls. A completely wireless, digital system, GSM makes clunky plastic handsets and traditional wired intercoms redundant. Perfect for elderly residents or those with mobility issues, GSM-based devices allow tenants to answer the door wherever they are via their preferred digital devices – with an unlimited range. Plus, for those older residents who perhaps don’t own a mobile phone, they can set the system up on a landline instead – allowing them to bypass the app to approve the entry of visitors.
However, this isn’t the only reason why GSM technology is beneficial for everyone. They can also be connected to secure online, remote management systems – allowing housing and property managers to oversee all access to the building from their own office or place of work. This means that administration tasks, such as editing key fob details and granting entry for contractors, can be done remotely and with just a few clicks of a mouse. It’s the perfect system for helping tenants quickly and easily, without the need for a site visit or encroaching on their independence.
Accessibility for everyone
As the population ages and as resident needs become more diverse, accessibility will only continue to grow in importance for housing professionals. Prioritising accessible features on intercoms is a straightforward and low-cost way for housing professionals to embrace inclusivity and make the tenant experience as seamless as possible for everyone.
Whether it’s ensuring that your keypads have Braille incorporated on buttons or updating your system with powerful wireless GSM technology, there are a myriad of ways to improve ease of entry for residents. Embrace new access control technology today and ensure that your residences are future proofed and accessible for years to come.
Melissa Lloyd-Williams is marketing manager at Intratone