There are around 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, and around 8% are regular wheelchair users. This means there are over a million people who may not be able to visit or work within your business if your premises is not adapted for wheelchair access. That’s a great deal of business and potentially talented candidates you’ll be missing out on. Making small changes to your building’s accessibility will ensure wheelchair users can easily and comfortably access your location.
Apart from it being more ethical, providing a certain level of accessibility solutions is the law. In order to abide by the Building Regulations part of the Disability Discrimination Act, you must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the building and its facilities to accommodate disabled visitors. We’ve put together a list of the main ways you can make your business more wheelchair-friendly.
- Do you have a suitable lift?
Having a lift system is a great way to help limited mobility users easily access different floors within your building – but it needs to be suitable to carry pushchairs, multiple users and wheelchairs.
There are several lift requirements that make it suitable for carrying wheelchair users.
- The doors must open wide enough to allow a wheelchair in (at least 900mm x 1400mm).
- The lift controls and the emergency call button must also be placed at a height easily reached by a wheelchair user.
- The door closing mechanism must be delayed – enough time for wheelchair users to get safely in and out.
It is assumed by many that lifts cannot be installed in some buildings due to limited space or the internal structure/architecture. New lift solutions now allow lift systems to be installed in just about any building – even old listed buildings or small cottages. Platform lifts are space-saving solutions which can be installed in small and limited spaces without any structural building works.
- Do you have an accessible toilet?
An accessible bathroom is a necessity for every building, especially for those in public and commercial settings. In a 2014 study by DisabledGo, it was found that a massive 40% of restaurants and a third of department stores had no accessible toilet – both are very alarming statistics.
To make a bathroom accessible it must abide by several regulations, these include:
- The toilet seat is required to be between 17 and 19 inches from the toilet base to top of the seat and there must be enough room to the side or in front for a wheelchair.
- There should be grab rails, with an easy to grab surface on the closest wall to the toilet.
- The sink or countertop should be no more than 34 inches high and should have an open space for knee clearance.
- There should be enough space inside the room so that a wheelchair can easily rotate – a minimum of 60 inches is required for a 180-degree turn.
- Do you provide an alternative to steps?
One of the largest problems faced by wheelchair users is steps inside or outside a building. Where there are stairs, there needs to be an alternative way of accessing a different level so that everyone can access parts of the building.
The best solution for a short flight of stairs is to install a ramp. Ramps are usually better used on external steps and can be permanent or portable. They are a cost-effective way to provide access for wheelchair users.
Lifts are more suitable for internal flights of stairs or where a ramp would not be suitable.
- Is it easy to manoeuvre around the building?
Visitors with limited mobility and those who use a wheelchair require a little more space when manoeuvring around your premises. Walkways, doorways, aisles and corridors need to be wide enough to comfortably fit a wheelchair.
Obstructions such as boxes, cleaning equipment or trollies could restrict the path of users navigating around the building. It’s important for all walkways to be clear – not just for wheelchair users but for health and safety in general.
- Are the doors easy to open?
Heavy doors can be a big issue for wheelchair users. Providing automatic doors or electric operated sliding doors can help users who may not have the strength to open them manually.
Self-closing fire doors can also prove to be a challenge; if they are required in your building make sure to have a slow close feature on them to increase the time wheelchair users have to pass through the door. Train your employees to look out for signs of low mobility and offer help where needed. This also will demonstrate excellent customer service and encourage visitors to revisit your business in the future.
- Does the car park have suitable disabled spaces?
Parking bays for disabled visitors should be located within 50 metres of an accessible entrance. They should have a clear section beside the bay which allows for wheelchair traffic to and from the car that has a minimum width of 1.2 metres.
In premises with more than 50 car parking spaces, it is recommended that 4% are reserved for people with disabilities.
Written by: Becky Morris