The importance of stair-nosing in creating inclusive public spaces one step at a time

Published: 16-May-2024

The experts at Marshalls have revealed what stair nosing is and the difference it makes to public spaces for people with visual impairments

There’s a lot of consideration taken when designing public spaces, with small changes making a huge difference for those visiting the areas.

Whilst these changes might not appear obvious to everyone to those with visual impairments, they make day-to-day life much easier.

What is stair nosing? 

Stair nosing is a safety feature installed on the edges of stairs.

It is typically made of durable materials, such as metal or rubber, and is a contrasting colour to the stairs to enhance visibility.

This contrast helps individuals, especially those with visual impairments, to identify a step and reduce the risk of falls. 

Why is stair nosing important?

Many falls on stairs result from someone misjudging the step tread and riser when climbing up and down the steps.

So, by creating a contrast between the step nosing and the colour of the step, people, particularly those with visual impairments, can differentiate between the tread and riser. 

The sizes of external steps are tightly controlled, helping individuals form a habit when climbing steps as they know how high they need to step.

Stair nosing is a safety feature installed on the edges of stairs

By maintaining consistency amongst external steps, people will be able to correctly judge the height of steps, creating an inclusive and accessible environment.

With this in mind, stair-nosing enhances the visibility of steps to help people build a consistent habit and approach to climbing the stairs. 

Are there regulations around stair nosing?

Regulations and guidance around stair-nosing derive from the BS8300 standards and Building Regulations Part M.

However, these requirements differ slightly when it comes to the width and positioning of the nosing strips.

So, how can consistency and compliance be achieved?

Marshalls has recently developed a range of external concrete steps to incorporate a durable, permanently contrasting visibility strip that meets the requirements of both Part M and BS8300 standards. 

Light Reflective Value (LRV) is also an important consideration when designing external steps and choosing the correct materials for their construction.

Regulations and guidance around stair-nosing derive from the BS8300 standards and Building Regulations Part M

For those with visual impairments, the contrast between the step and the nosing must be at least a 30-point difference to create that visual differentiation.

This means that no matter the sun’s intensity on the steps, there will still be a distinct colour variation between the steps and their nosing. 

Mark King, a paving engineer at Marshalls, said: "As we age, our eyesight naturally deteriorates -  impacting how we interact with and experience the world around us. The population is undoubtedly living longer, therefore we can assume that a large number of people are living with visual impairments of varying severity."

"Steps are a very common landscaping method, creating transitionary spaces between indoor and outdoor environments and creating access between different heights in a space’s natural infrastructure. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge how this might impact an ageing population and ensure we are doing what we can to future-proof public spaces across the country," King explained.   

"As there are over 2 million people in the UK currently living with sight loss, this isn’t limited to only those of an older age. Therefore, creating accessible and inclusive spaces for everyone is crucial,” King concluded.

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