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Disabled Access

Disabled access to buildings is a complete joke in the UK. Not only access on the high street but homes generally are not built with the disabled in mind.

The Building Regulations part M contain the legislation on provision for access.

The Lifetime Homes web site clearly makes the point about how, for little extra cost, houses can be designed which will cater for changing needs including a variety of disabilities. Considering that we are an ageing population with a large proportion of people who are in some way at least partly disabled, it makes sense to build in the possibility for future adaptation of a house even if you don’t incorporate all the details immediately. This may not be directly relevant for you right now but in the future some member of your family may benefit. Also, if you come to sell the house it may be a positive factor in someone’s choice for purchase.

This thinking fits well with the section on multi-use design because flexible and adaptable design may go hand in hand with accessibility. One only needs to think of a granny flat being created out of part of a family house to get the point.

Lifts – it may be possible to include an area where a future wheelchair lift could go, possibly in a hall near the stairs where it faces onto areas of floor on both levels. It may also work to line it up with a vertical service duct. Such lifts can be free standing and can be ‘through’ entry and exit. This may be a better option than a stair lift. The Building Regulations, Fire Safety, have stipulations on the positioning of lifts which serve any floor more than 4.5m above ground level. See para. 2.18.


Bathrooms – the Approved documents part M has a section on sanitary facilities with detailed drawings and an LABC article explains why the details are important


2 comments to Disabled Access

  • bobthebuilder

    Hi Tony,
    Entirely agree but I suspect things are changing. Houses have long been perceived more as an ‘investment opportunity’ in the UK rather than somewhere to put your roots down. The emerging green awareness and higher building standards will cause people to think more deeply about the real long-term quality of what they are buying rather than just whether it has a smart bathroom suite. Also the steadying of house prices with the recession will cause a change in attitude in favour of quality.

    I also suspect that with an ageing population the issues around Lifetime Homes will start coming to the fore

  • Tony

    The cost to do all these things is *not* minimal. As with low-energy light fittings, manufacturers will always add at least 50% to anything seen as “different”, and you will get no added-value in terms of the value of your house. Even the requirement for a wider parking bay has a significant cost attached to it on a development site where you are trying to make the best use of space: every “disabled” bay means losing half a bay for everyone else

    I write as a small developer who has tried to do the right thing and design his new houses and flats to Lifetime Homes standards, but gets absolutely no credit for it. I’ve come to the conclusion that all efforts to make aedjustments for disabled people is just a straight loss off my bottom line: I get no increase in the selling price of my property, and if I point out all the extra features, very few people are interested: they just want the cheapest possible price for the house, no matter how much it’s cost me to build. Estate agents report that there is no market for properties with a Lifetime Homes designation; the only websites that claim to sell properties with disabled adaptations are few and far between; large websites like Rightmove have no means of distinguishing Lifetime Homes from the rest (they only do “retirement” complexes); my local social services and council are simply not geared up to help developers find buyers with an interest in Lifetime Homes.

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