Estimates of the number of disabled people in the United Kingdom vary. Figures between 8 per cent of the population and 8 million persons provide some scale of the need for building designers, constructors, owners and occupiers to facilitate for the disabled. Legislative measures to ensure that disabled people can access buildings include the Disability Discrimination Act introduced in 1995 and then in subsequent parts up to 2004, the Disability Discrimination (Employment) Regulations 1996 and Part M of the Building Regulations endorsed by BS 8300: Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. Code of practice.
The term ‘disabled’ covers a wide range of incapacities, but it is the wheelchair-dependent person that is of principal concern to the building designer. A person in a wheelchair can occupy about five times the space needed by an ambulant person. Therefore the following should be incorporated into the construction of new dwellings:
- Building entrance minimum 900 mm wide.
- Firm level access to the building – maximum slope 1 in 20.
- Level (or close to level) principal entrance threshold.
- Entrance door minimum 775 mm clear width.
- Corridors/passageways minimum 750 mm width.
- Stair minimum 900 mm width. Handrail both sides.
- Light switches, power, telephone and aerial sockets at 450–1 200 mm above finished floor level.
- WC provision on the entrance or first habitable storey. Door opens outwards. Clear wheelchair space of 750 mm in front of WC with preferably 500 mm each side of the WC measured from its centre.
- Flats to have lifts and stairs which enable disabled residents to access other floors .
Buildings other than dwellings should have the following provisions:
- Ramped and easy access to buildings. Minimum width
- 200 mm, maximum gradient 1 in 20.
- Tactile pavings (profiled).
- Dropped kerbs.
- Handrails at changes in level.
- Guarding around projections and obstructions.
- Wheelchair manoeuvrability in entrances.
- Entrance width minimum 800 mm clear space.
- Internal door openings, minimum 750 mm clear space.
- Corridors/passageways minimum 1 200 mm wide.
- Lift facilities, see Building Regulations, Approved Document M2 and BS 5776: Specification for powered stair lifts, or BS 6440: Powered lifting platforms for use by disabled people.
- Stairs minimum 1 000 mm wide, rise between landings 1 800 mm maximum, step rise maximum 170 mm, step going minimum 250 mm and a handrail each side.
- Wheelchair-access WC provision on each floor.