Revised: 23/2/06

Avoiding discrimination against disabled people, as required by the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), is decided by court cases. These guidance notes are to give a best guess as to what might help towards avoiding discrimination. They are compiled from various sources, including:

The Building Regulations (Parts M and Part K),
British Standard BS:8300,
recommendations of the Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE)
and the DDA Codes of Practice that were being issued from time to time in the early days.

The guidance is broken down into categories of Public Access and Employee Access plus a General category that applies to both.

The categories include topics such as ramps, entrances, reception areas and work stations. Details in the topics are split between a: General Requirements and b: Detail Requirements and Sources of Information.


Between 14% and 24% of the population has a disability or is closely involved (partner and/or family) with a disabled person. That is a quarter of your potential customers or employees.

As you get older, you are more likely to develop/acquire impairments.

The Disability Discrimination Act came into force in December 1996 and is now embodied in the Equality Act. Have you taken any action yet?


The 1995 Disability Discrimination Act came into force in December 1996. Since then, it has been unlawful to treat a disabled person less favourably for a reason related to that person's disability.

In addition, under part III of the Act, which came into force in October 1999, service providers must have taken reasonable steps to:

By 2004, service providers should have taken reasonable steps to remove, alter or provide means of avoiding physical features that made it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to receive a service.

Requirements of the Act are decided by law cases but there are codes of practice indicating types of action that could be considered to be reasonable in service provision.

At present, the main guidelines are:




a: The route should be safe, level or ramped, not too long and have drop kerbs where necessary.

b: Drop kerbs should provide a slight step (maximum 6mm) so that it is not too high for a wheelchair user but high enough for a visually impaired person to detect.


a: Ramps should not be too steep or too long. They need a level space at the top, so that the wheelchair user does not roll back if to waiting or trying to open a door.

b: Ramps should be limited to a gradient of 1 in 20 and have a level space 1.5m deep at the top, outside the swing of any door, for a wheelchair user to wait or rest on. If site conditions make this gradient impossible, the absolute maximum is 1 in 12, although 1 in 15 would be preferred. Ramps at 1 in 12 should have 1.5m long, level landing spaces at not more than 2m apart. At 1 in 15 there should not be more than 5m between landings/resting places. Ramps at 1 in 20 should not be longer than 10m between landings.


a: Balustrades are needed to stop people falling off edges. Handrails are to give people support. Someone may have an impairment on one side, which means they need a handrail on one side of a stair or ramp when going up and on the other side when going down. Therefore handrails should be provided on both sides. The top of balustrades may be too high to be a handrail as well, so both will be needed.

b: Protective balustrades are needed where a drop is greater than two steps or 380mm, whichever is the lesser. Balustrades on balconies and at the edge of landings should be 1100mm high. Handrails should be between 900 and 1000mm above the surface (above the nosings on stairs and steps). The lower height is preferred, particularly for older or shorter people.

The handrail should be easy to grip (such as a 45 to 50mm diameter, circular section rail). It should also be easy to hold, especially when wet or cold. The handrail should extend at least 300mm beyond the top and bottom of a ramp or the top and bottom nosings of steps. Notches can be provided towards the top and bottom lengths of the handrails to give warning of the ends of the ramp or steps. Uncoated metal handrails can be cold to touch and should not be used, particularly in outdoor locations.The ends of handrails should be detailed so that they do not catch into coat sleeves.


a: Doors need to be wide enough for wheelchair users and to be easy to operate for all users, including parents with buggies and people with walking difficulties. Wheelchair users need to be able to reach the handles, even when they are tucked into corners.

b: Entrance doors or one leaf of a pair of doors should have a clear opening width of at least 800mm. They should have an unobstructed space of at least 300mm next to the door's leading edge, unless it is opened by an automatic control (Part M).

Door thresholds should not be more than 15mm high, either on the inside or outside. If the thresholds are higher than 5mm, their edges should be chamfered.


a: Internal doors also need to be wide enough for wheelchair users and may need to be wider than the minimum if they cannot be approached head on.

b: Internal doors or one leaf of a pair of doors should have a clear opening width of at least 800mm. The clear open width may need to be increased where the door cannot be approached head on. They should have an unobstructed space of at least 300mm next to the door's leading edge, unless it is opened by an automatic control (Part M).


a: Doors should be easy to open.

b: The pressure required to open a door should not be higher than 30 Newtons (BS:8300). Door handles should be easy to grip and operate (eg. lever arm handles). Door handles should be between 800mm and 1050mm high (900mm preferred).


a: There should be a suitable glazed panel wherever the opening action of the door could be a hazard (Part M).

b: Vision panels in doors should run at least from 500mm to 1500mm high.


a: Care needs to be taken that communication is easy and, where appropriate, private.

b: Places where there is background noise or privacy is required, particularly when other people are nearby, should be provided with an induction loop. This includes reception counters and meeting rooms. An induction loop is operated by a microphone. What is said into it is transmitted to hearing aids magnetically when they have a switch that can be set to 'T' (for Telephone). In this way, the listener only hears what is being received by the microphone and there is no need to shout. There needs to be a symbol to make the availability of the loop obvious.

Making one or two clip boards available for writing on can help people communicate where speech or hearing make this difficult.

Consideration should be given to providing visual warnings as well as audible ones. Eg. flashing lights connected to the fire alarm system. Vibrating alarms that can be carried by individuals may be appropriate in some locations.


a: Care is needed that spaces are clear and obvious with no unexpected hazards. Many people with vision impairments have some vision. Signs should have good contrast and be of a good size. Illumination and colour contrasts should be good to clearly define spaces, surfaces and obstacles. Tactile symbols, numbers and text can be used. Only a small proportion of people with vision impairments read Braille but it should be considered as a means of communication.

These days, computers and programs are available that can be spoken to and that speak back.

b: Short instructions and information for people with vision impairments could be given on Dymo tape with raised letters and numbers. Information can easily be provided on audio tape and, where appropriate, audio tapes can be passed to the local societies for blind people for copying and circulating. Information should be available in big print as an alternative and its availability should be made clear.

Lines of print are best if they are justified on the left hand side, so that line beginnings can easily be found. Lines of print or writing should be kept short, so that the eyes don't become tired when reading across.


a: Changing rooms need to provide options for wheelchair users.

b: A changing room needs to be large enough for a wheelchair user to enter and move around in. A drop down seat may help people with mobility or standing difficulties. Clothes hooks need to be at a lower as well as a higher level.


a: Accessible toilets help many people with disabilities, not just wheelchair users.

b: The minimum recomended clear floor size is 1700 by 2200mm. At these sizes, the door should open outwards. (Some toilets may be to the older Part M recommendations of being 1500mm by 2000mm). Door handles and locks should be operable by someone with dexterity impairments. There should be a horizontal rail on the back (inside) of the door, to help wheelchair users to close the door behind them.

The centre of the wc pan should be 500mm from the nearest side wall. The front of the wc pan should be 750mm in front of the rear wall and there should not be obstructions on the rear wall (such as drainage pipes) that reduce this clear distance. The wc seat should be 480mm above the floor. There should be a horizontal rail at a height of 680mm on the side wall nearest to the pan. There should be a drop down rail on the other side of the pan at 680mm high in its lowered position.

The wash hand basin should be a cantilevered type, not with a pedestal. Its rim should be between 720mm and 740mm high. Its edge should be between 140mm and 160mm in front of the wc pan. A shelf could be provided near the basin for items such as colostemy bags to be changed, or a flat cistern top at low leevel might help with this.

There should be a mirror running at least from 600mm to 1600mm high, so that wheelchair users and shorter people can check themselves in it. Hand driers should be at a suitable height for wheelchair users.

There should be a red alarm cord hanging down to the floor which activates an audible and visual alarm where it will be noticed. The alarm should be audible and visible, both inside and outside the compartment. There should be a reset button, with instructions on its use, within reach at the side of the wc pan. The red alarm cord should hang down to within 100mm of the floor and should have a pull tag at the bottom and another at between 800mm and 1000mm high.

These are the basic essentials. Other rails and fittings in the toilets should be in accordance with the size, layout and details set out in Part M of the Building Regulations.



a: A proportion of the parking spaces should be accessible to wheelchair users. Initial guidance gave the example that it is not enough for a supermarket to provide accessible parking bays. They must also manage them to ensure they are not used by other people.

b: A space is accessible if it has a 1200mm width of hard standing next to it which is kept clear so that a wheelchair user can always transfer between a car and their wheelchair. A 1200mm wide hatched zone between two standard size parking bays could be used on both sides, though these days there tend to be hatched transfer zones on both sides of each bay


a: What is expected of members of the public should be clear and obvious. Where they should report, where they should wait, when and where they should proceed to. Too much information (eg. posters and signs) can be confusing.

b: Reception counters should be obvious and uncluttered. The few signs needed should be clear and bold in straightforward english. If a bell is to be operated, there should be clear, visible signs explaining its purpose.


a: Counters can prevent wheelchair users and shorter people from being seen and are perceived as a barrier to access.

b: Counters should have a lower section for shorter people and wheelchair users. There should ideally be space under the counter for the wheelchair user's knees and the chair's armrests, so that the person can get close to the counter. This is particularly useful where documents need to be written on or signed. The top surface should be at 760mm and the underside should be at least 700mm above the finished floor level. The space should be 900mm wide or, preferably, wider. (CAE)

A pair of clip boards for writing on at a counter can help communication with someone with hearing or speech impairments. They can also be used by a wheelchair user when writing or signing something on their lap.



The employment aspects of the act now apply to all employers, however many employees they may have.


a: Disabled people should be interviewed as to their skills and abilities. If they fulfill the job requirements, the employer should then assess what changes or support may be required around the workplace to enable the person to do the job. These can often be minor in nature and cost.


a: Parking bays should be allocated to known disabled employees and should be appropriate for their disability, eg. Wide enough for a wheelchair user; near the building for someone with mobility impairments.

b: See 'Equality of Service to the Public / Parking / section b:' for details of a wheelchair user parking bay.


a: Similar elements as those required for public access apply here. The disabled person will know best what heights and widths are appropriate for them to work in or at. Often, the minor changes needed will benefit other staff.