Our Panel is pushing for the Stirling area to have more accessible homes.
The Blackwood Foundation has identified a list of generic features that cause inaccessibility and which are commonly found in houses that were not designed with disabled people in mind. These include:
Plug sockets too low down
Kitchen cabinets being either too low or too high
Pipe boxes which can dominate space in kitchens and bathrooms
Inappropriate door handles
So what makes a home accessible?
Our Panel makes full use of the BS8300, which is a British Standard that sets out how buildings should be designed, constructed and maintained to create an accessible and inclusive environment.
The following points are based on the BS8300 but interpreted from our perception and through our experiences as an Access Panel.
Involve the family. It is essential to involve all people (disabled or not) who live in the property with the design. Worktops for example, which are lowered may not suit all members of the household.
External Features. Ideally canopies should be present over the front and rear doors for weather protection. PIR lighting is also needed, particularly with a covered car port and entrances. Door Entry and Call Systems may also be required. A small paved garden where access to waste bins is possible should be provided. A small conservatory would be desirable for the occupier to sit in natural daylight during the day. A storage area of 2000 x 1200m wide with socket point, may be an option for securing mobility aids.
Flat & Level Access Throughout. This should be made mandatory for all new build except under exceptional circumstances, whether private or social housing. This is particularly important for maintaining independence for wheelchair users, and it would include external areas like car parking.
Space. This is often an issue. Many accessible properties don’t have adequate space in Kitchens, Bathrooms, and particularly Bedrooms for people who use wheelchairs.
Accessible Bathrooms. Probably the most important room in the house for independent living! The design will probably differ through individual need and some users will require an accessible WC and may benefit from a Clos O Mat toilet, bath lift or hoist. Most existing bathrooms are too small to be converted into a toilet and shower room yet conversions are often carried out which leave the whole room wet.
Wetrooms. A well planned wetroom has the space to include hard screens which stop the water from wetting the cistern and other areas like a dry shower seat (possibly a fold-down). There should be two clothes hooks too, as well as fluted and colour contrasted grab-rails. If a bathroom is too small it is impossible to achieve a good roll-in wetroom. A suggested size is 2100 x 2500mm.
Kitchens. For people with a visual impairment good design in the kitchen includes the use of texture, spacing and colour. People with a physical impairment appreciated cookers, microwaves, worktops and cupboards at an appropriate height and depth. Space for a table for eating is not unreasonable. BS9266 advocates a minimum clear kitchen width of 1200mm between units with a continuous run of 3600mm for the worktop.
Bedrooms. There should be two bedrooms. The main bedroom should be large enough to allow a 750mm clearance around the bed for a wheelchair and any furniture. Items like a wardrobe should be built-in. Clear space of a 1500mm turning circle is required in the bedroom and should ideally include a clothes drawer and up to two dressing chairs so that they don’t impede circulation or access to the window or en-suite. A hoist may be required, so the ceiling should be designed to be load bearing (like the toilet). Beds are often overlooked, and they should not be too low as it is difficult for people to get in or out, or stand up from a low bed. (circa 550mm is a good bed height).
Socialising Space. There should be adequate space for seating and perhaps to accommodate other uses. Glazing in this room should start no higher than 800mm.
Hallway. Recessed space should be included for storing and charging one to two electric chairs if there is no external storage.
Doors. Door widths should provide a clear width of 889mm. It is worth considering sliding doors in some locations in the house, as they do maximise space and door clearance, although they are more expensive. Thresholds should be avoided although (BS8300) allows a15mm max. chamfered height.
Flooring. Use of appropriate flooring in locations which is attractive, textured, easy to clean, non-slip, anti-static and allow free movement of a wheelchair.
Electrical Sockets. Fitted 720mm from floor to centre. Light switches should be lower.
Heating System. Underfloor is good as it optimises upon the maximum circulation space in hallways and rooms, reduces dust, and eliminates potentially dangerous hot surfaces, etc.
Lifts. If properties are built with a 1st floor, or more, structural space provision should be designed and built-in for a future platform lift.
Waste Streams. As this is now a normal and necessary activity, room for the storage of a small quantity of waste types should be provided in the kitchen.
Assistance Dogs. More disabled people have dogs and consideration should be given to their environment within and immediately outside of the house.
Letter Box Pockets. Will reduce the need to pick mail from the floor, but one has to watch that the door opening is not affected.
Fire alarm. If the resident has hearing loss then it is vital to ensure that the right fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm are fitted. This may involve a system that uses high-intensity strobe lights and/or vibration pads.
Door entry system. Doorbells should be suitable for the hearing ability of the resident and potentially may require a flashing chime. If a door intercom system is to be used then an audio-visual intercom will provide peace of mind about the caller and will provide an accessible entry system for those with hearing loss. External door buttons should be at a height where they can be reached by wheelchair users and those of small stature.