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 RegulationsThese are the mass of regulations that cover safety, health, welfare, convenience, energy efficiency etc. in the way buildings are constructed. Not to be confused with Planning consent (which is more to do with whether you can put up the building in the first place) part M pages 64-72 contain the main part of the legislation on provision for access. There are some other sections, starting page 11 which cover existing dwellings and are mainly about making sure that any alterations to houses don’t make access more difficult than it was before the work started.
The Lifetime Homes"Lifetime Homes make life as easy as possible for as long as possible because they are thoughtfully designed. They provide accessible and adaptable accommodation for everyone, from young families to older people and individuals with a temporary or permanent physical impairment". See the Lifetime Homes page and the Lifetime Homes Foundation web site 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.
Checklist of disabled design features
Parking bays – sufficient space for vehicles and wheelchairs
steps and ramps need to be 1500 wide with a 100mm upstand to both sides and they should get less steep as they get longer. (Anything over 10m will need an intermediate level area of 1500mm.) See table below. They should have a slip resistant surface and can have a crossfall of 1:40 to help rainwater drain off. Handrails may also be needed.
If the ramp leads to a door then there should be a level area of at least 1200mm square next to the door.
hand rails with a diameter of 40-45 mm should be fixed at a height of 900 – 1000mm
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.
doors – the external doorway should not have a threshold greater than 10mm, or 15mm if chamfered and its clear width should be at least 775mm, preferably 1000mm. There should be a clear space of 300mm to the door handle side of the door to facilitate opening. It may be a good idea to include vision panels in the doors at heights of 500-800mm and 1150-1500mm.
windows Window sills should have a maximum height above floor level of 750mm and in some cases a window winder may be helpful, depending on the style of window.
electrical outlets power sockets and light switches should be about 450mm – 850mm above floor level.
worktops – kitchens should have low work surfaces (850mm) and lever taps are useful.
bathrooms – the drawing below shows the basic minimum for a disabled toilet. Providing certain basics are adhered to such as –
- the minimum floor plan
- positioning of plumbing
- door size and position
- sufficiently strong wall areas to support grab rails
then specialist fittings can always be added later if needed