Elevators Ring In The New In Handicapped Accessibility

Posted: April 18, 1993

Some thought that the elevator had stalled, and that the chimes were sounding an automatic cry for help.

Others thought they heard a telephone ringing somewhere.

One guy said a bird was loose in the courthouse.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The chimes jingling for the first time Wednesday in one of the three elevators in the Bucks County Courthouse are to aid the blind.

Sighted people can tell which floor they've stopped on by glancing up at a lighted panel above the inner elevator doors. For blind people, a series of chimes marks each floor.

A single series sounds on the first floor, a sequence of two on the second, and so on up to the seventh floor.

Installation of the chimes is part of a $270,000 revamp of the courthouse's three-car elevator system, in use since 1962. The Bucks County commissioners approved the expenditure several months ago.

They really had no choice because the old elevators were slow and stalled frequently. They also had an annoying habit of stopping a few inches above or below a floor.

All these problems were caused by worn-out controllers, the mechanisms that tell the elevators where and when to stop.

The county decided to install the chimes during the renovation to comply with the new federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires in part that handicapped people have the same access to public facilities that the able-bodied do.

Only nobody told county employees about the decision, which led to much speculation last week about what the ringing sound meant.

Also in keeping with the ADA, the elevator buttons have been lowered to provide access to people in wheelchairs.

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