Disability equipment, for less!

Making It Accessible

PLEASE NOTE: this page is a work in progress and is still under construction. In the interests of making information available, and enabling people to add or criticise, this page is live.

This page is intended as a useful and common sense guide when considering your options for how to make provision for accessible accommodation. It is arranged by chapters, so that you can either read through the entirety or click on the chapter headings below to go straight to that section. Please note that this does not constitute legal or professional advice on compliance. Bathrooms, shower-rooms and wetrooms are used in a variety of ways as people have different needs. By understanding what people might need and how your own space might adapt best, you can start making an informed decision on your own accessible accommodation provision.

Articles such as these in the Telegraph and on the BBC website - highlght the growing need to get on board with great accessibility in our hospitality and accommodation industry within the UK. Though, frankly, I have found it to be the same everywhere I have been. 

You should find that Accessibility is not a daunting subject and need not be ugly or clinical looking. Much of it is common sense. Annie Coultas has completely refurbished old farm buildings in Dorset (Blackrow Farm) wanting it to be accessible for any guests with mobility, hearing or vision impairments. The results look stunning and works! When I was installing a wet-room, we were talking through the positioning of a dropdown shower seat and the shower taps, slide rail and head on the wall. The builder asked me where to put the shower controls. So I asked him to get a chair and put it where the shower seat would be and then to sit down on it. "Now where would you put them?" I asked. It was all very obvious to him immediately. 

If you're an architect / designer and you want some clear design input, then I recommend you treat yourself to the Habinteg 3rd Edition Wheelchair Housing Design Guide. It is value for money and makes the design issues very clear. If you're after something a little more concise and free, then have a look at this excellent and visual pdf from www.saifscotland.org.uk here.

Making Your Accommodation Accessible (Full Size)

What most people forget is just how many unexpected people use accessibility features when they're installed. If you don't believe me then talk to any new mother! Or talk to anyone trying to help their ageing parent around. Or talk to a normally fit active young man with his broken leg in plaster, or a relative who's just had a stroke.. The list goes on. Greater provision for accessibilty is future-proofing your home, accommodation and business. At some point, someone you care about will be grateful for your consideration. And it might just be you, not having to move out of the home you love in your retirement years.

Your aim should be to enable the independence and freedom of movement for your guests - or if your property is limited, do as much as is possible. And remember that these points are here for consideration: depending on what type of accessible accommodation you are offering, some points may not be relevant.

  1. Entrance
  2. Reception
  3. Bedrooms
  4. Wetrooms, Bathrooms & Shower-rooms
  5. Dining Room
  6. Sitting Room
  7. Kitchen 
  8. Outdoors

There is a expert based charity called Centre for Accessible Enviroments who may be able to answer any questions or point you in the right direction. I have found them to be helpful in the past. There is also a useful and bitesize Infographic page on the Campaya website which is more visual and makes providing accessibility easy to visualise.

1. Entrance

  • Driveway or car park: flat surfaces so wheelchairs don't run away while your disabled guest is transferring from the car to the wheelchair. 
  • Hard standing: deep gravel may look smart to you, but it's like a tank trap to a wheelchair and inhibits independent movement. This is particularly demoralising for a wheelchair user, remembering that this is your guests initial impression of the accessible accommodation they've just booked and paid for.
  • Keep a space closest to the entrance for disabled parking. If you have more than one accessible room, then more than one designated space is helpful.
  • The Scotch Corner Holiday Inn has a little sign when you drive into the Disabled Parking bay which says "Disabled Parking. If you need assistance, please call the reception on 01748 850900." It is the best reception I have encountered.
  • Ramped entrance. Darlicks didn't go up steps and nor do wheelchair users independently. Please note that a door needs a flat space in front of it. It can be impossible to open a door from a ramp!
  • I'm including a link to Sesame Access because it's a clever product that gets round the accessibility problem where there isn't room for a flight of steps and a wheelchair access platform lift. It is not a recommendation of the company as I haven't had any dealings with them and I think there might be other suppliers out there, but it may be useful to know that such a product exists - see video below.

2. Reception

  • If you want to welcome your guests, it's hard to do it when they're looking at an impenetrable wall of reception desk. I was also really impressed that the Scotch Corner Holiday Inn had a low centre desk flanked by two higher ones. Aesthetically it looked good and my feeling at being put central was noticeable, impressive in its consideration to detail and welcoming. 
  • Hard floors are easier to navigate than deep carpets.
  • If you have sofas, chairs and tables, consider how a wheelchair user will be able to navigate around them. Get hold of a wheelchair and do it for yourself. You'll soon understand the issues.

3. Bedrooms

My biggest pet hate here is putting the accessible bedroom in the part of the house or hotel where you think no able-bodied will pay to occupy that space. It's downright rude - and, chances are, a genuine waste of your money, as you won't get the recommendations and repeat visits that you might have hoped for. Lead the way and put the accessible room somewhere where we'd like to pay you money to stay. Do you know, I'd love to have an accessible room with a sea view... and I'd be pleased to pay money for it!

Next, SPACE is the watch word. But being practical, there isn't always space, so it's how you use it that matters. And how you describe it!

Get a wheelchair and sit in it and go into the room, close the door behind you, go to the bed, get on and off it, back into your wheelchair and go into the bathroom and you'll start to get an idea of how accessible is the bedroom. Aim for independence.

What get the accessibility ticks when it comes to accessible bedrooms?

  • wide doorways
  • room for a wheelchair to go around the room, open and close curtains & windows independently and get to the furniture, tv, kettle, etc...
  • easy to use the chest of drawers and wardrobe (how high are the rails? Could you reach them sitting down?)
  • height of bed - adjustable is best, but you can get cheap (and safe) blocks to raise the height. Transferring from a wheelchair to bed (& back) is easier if it's level.
  • provision of a mobile or overhead ceiling hoist - for transfers.
Consider how your guests with hearing impairment going to know if there is a fire in the middle of the night? You can get vibrating alarms which are linked in to any fire alarms. And it might be a question of training staff. They should know who is staying and what are their needs, as they may need to be proactive and wake them up.

4. Wetrooms, Bathrooms & Shower Rooms

This is arguably the most critical of rooms to consider in order to create real accessibility. If you can show that your bath / shower room is accessible, then your disabled guests will book with much greater confidence and will most likely come back and recommend. It's pretty easy to do, doesn't need to look clinical or unattractive, but does require a bit of thought and knowledge. Frustratingly there are many places which make the effort, but don't consult, and the result is a wasted effort.

A new company, MOTION, is working to offer the complete specialist supply and installation package, offering beautiful wetrooms and bathrooms, using quality engineered and designed fittings, combined with knowledge of how to do it right, from both technical installation and disabilty requirement angles. They are a new and user led business motivated by the frustrations of previous experience. One of the founders is a tetraplegic. 

The Layout - SPACE is the key. This doesn't mean having a huge room, simly having gaps in the right places so that a wheelchair user can spin around and get to each of the functional parts and use the room. This diagram - from the Portsmouth City Council Design Guide for Wheelchair Accessible Housing - illustrates my point about having space to  manoeuvre. This bathroom is not huge and the bath could just as easily be replaced by a shower.


Portsmouth City Council Accessible Bathroom Illustration (Full Size)


    • There are diverse ways of installing wetrooms with varying degrees of success. Simplified, there are 2 types of wetroom:
      • Tanked Wetroom: which means that the whole room is sealed underneath the floor and wall tiles making it completely waterproof.
      • Divided Wetroom: which has a wet area and a dry area. Although the wet area is not enclosed like a conventional shower, water is only designed to go in this area. Some form of division needs to contain the water - such as an open glass screen, shower curtain, etc..
    • From personal experience, I have found that trying to create levels so that water drains into a central drain, from around the room, is practically impossible and inevitably causes water "pooling" which causes more problems. If the drain needs to be away from a wall, because of the location of the soil pipe, then use Wet Form Formers - these are simply pre-moulded decks, which ensure the water drains away. 
    • One way to create a wet-room, satisfactorily, is to slope the whole floor in one direction, towards an end wall and have a gutter at the end. It is easier to channel water where you want it to go, this way.
    • If your existing floor levels constrain where your drain goes, - i.e. if you think you haven't got the depth for gravity to take the water away - don't forget you can install a small pump to drain the water. They are inexpensive and very efficient. Make sure you look for a quiet one! Many now will switch on automatically as soon as water enters the system.
    • And just a quick tip. If you have a wet-room and want to clear away the water after someone has used the shower, there is no better product on the market than the JML "Super Mop." It leaves the floor dry and is cheap to buy!
    • There are many companies which offer both the right equipment and installation, and my links do not constitute a recommendation, but offer you the choice:
      • Motion - see video below: A beautiful accessible wetroom for Grenadier Guard amputee Scott.
      • Contour Showers  

You may want to consider these following components:

    • Flooring
    • Underfloor Heating - if you have a wetroom, I cannot recommend having underfloor heating too strongly! It dries out the room and keeps and prevents that bathroom dampness. You can do this in a variety of ways. If you are just refurbishing the one room then electric heating pads are quick and easy.
    • W.C.
      • Position. There needs to be room for a wheelchair to come beside so that the user can transfer on to the W.C. easily.
      • A longer rpojextion toilet is more practical for wheelchair users. This is simply means that it comes out a little further from the wall. It allows space for the wheelchair to back up to the wall with the user ending up beside (rather than in front of) the loo.
      • for illustrative purposes, see the photo below. There is a wide range of WCs available - both wall and floor mounted, though with a wet room, a wall mounted W.C. makes for easier cleaning of the floor and looks better (I think!).

 Omnia Wall Long Projection Mounted Toilet (max250)

    • Basin
      • wall mounted to enable easy access for wheelchair users
      • clearance - not an exact science but would recommend at least 29" from personal experience
      • single mixer tap easier to use
      • space around it for toiletries
      • for illustrative purposes, see the photo below. There are many variations including the Omnia Curved Washbasin, favoured by Motion. Prices vary massively, as you'd expect, and my mother-in-law bought an inexpensive accessible basin in a Bathroom Store sale.

 Wheelchair Accessible Basin (max250)

    • Shower
      • Thermostatic, so cannot burn skin where user has no sensation (e.g. paralysis)
      • Controls and grab rail on side so easily accessible for independent use - not sure where this is? Pop a chair where the user would sit and then see where you can reach.
      • Shelf for toiletries, within easy reach
      • Shower chair - if you can provide one of these, it's an extra feather in your bow. You can buy them 2nd hand more cheaply. Or you can install wall mounted drop down shower chairs. U-shaped and padded seats are best.
      • Handheld shower heads are most practical for wheelchair users. A combined ceiling rose and handheld shower gives the best of all worlds, but if I had to choose between then handheld shower head wins everytime: if you're sitting down in a shower chair and switch an overhead shower on, first you get an uncomfortable deluge of cold water, and then you can't lather up or wash properly because of the continual downpour of water. Also, without going into detail, it's a lot easier to wash down below with a hand held shower, as you can point it upwards...
    • Bath
    • Grab Rails
      • Different users have different requirements for where these need to be. 
    • Mirror
      • The mirror should be tall enough and fixed so that it is useable from a (wheelchair) seated and standing position. 
      • If you have a wetroom, installing heating pads behind it makes it useable when the room is steamy. 
    • Heated Towel Rail
      • Accessible from wheelchair. It's the simple things in life which make the difference and I'd like to be able to hang my own towel after showering.
      • Not too close to toilet to prevent any user without feeilng burning his/her legs 
    • Shaver Socket
      • I mention this as they're easy to forget, but ideal for electric toothbrushes as well as shavers!
    • Good Quality Extractor Fan
      • Get one that does the job of extracting! Too many pathetic ones around that don't get the steam and moisture out. And if you can get a quiet one, so much the better.
    • Bathroom Door (and grab rail on back of door)
      • There will be more room in the bathroom if this door opens OUT and not in. If the bathroom is small, hanging a door to open inwards can completely prevent a wheelchair from getting in and closing the door.
      • And if the door opens out, put a grab rail horizontally on it. It has the appearance of a towel rail and helps a wheelchair users close the door - don't believe me? Sit in a kitchen chair just inside the bathroom and try closing the door!
    • Toilet Roll Holder
      • Easy to forget! These can be incorporated into grab rails.

5. Dining Room

Dining is SO much more enjoyable if you can get your legs under the table and rest your arms on the table (okay okay, you gotta be an aunt and over 40.. but let's assume your guests are!).

So don't use those annoying round tables with the central leg (or at least let's consider one or two tables which aren't those ones for your wheelchair using guests to use - and if you do it this way then keep the accessible tables for those guests with access requirements. And if it's a square table, will the width of the space be wide enough to fit the front of a wheelchair between? (Because 59cms won't go through a 50cm gap.)

From the ground the lowest part of the table needs to be high enough to get a wheelchair user's legs under. Now this one is tricky because there isn't a set height. But there are a number of tricks I've used:

  • Get some wooden blocks and raise the table when required.
  • Get a flat top (strong piece of ply) and rest it on the table so that it overlaps enough in one place for that section to be the accessible part of the table.
  • Some tables have overhanging ends or joins where a wheelchair user can get underneath. Point these out to your guests!
Balance ease of getting to the right place at the table with NOT putting the wheelchair space in the crappiest position. That's just rude & unwelcoming!

6. Sitting Room


7. Kitchen

There are degrees of accessibility with kitchens ranging from token (but helpful) gestures to the Full Monty - such as those designed by Adam Thomas at Design Matters - Accessible Kitchens. Adam is the leading authority in the UK and has worked with the Symphony Group to launch an accessible kitchen range in 2018. He is a full-time wheelchair user and has made this his life's work, having huge and dedicated experience.

The KBSA have a webpage offering accessible kitchen design guidance.

8. Outdoors

There are degrees here and it's all about what you have and how far you want to go. I would say a couple of things though:

  • Deep gravel is like Tank Traps or those escape lanes to stop lorries with no brakes crashing on steep downhills. If you want to be accesible, please find an alternative to deep gravel as it's incredibly hard for wheelchair users to get through!
  • Have a quick look at another of our Information Pages - Getting Out & Active - as depending on your location, some of these pieces of equipment might just be perfect for your guests and the fact that you have them or can rent them out maybe your Unique Selling Point in attracting more guests to stay.
  • Of these, if you have access to the big outdoors or a wonderful country estate, then really consider a Mountain Trike. Tim is a very friendly and knowledgeable chap to deal with and they have a number of options which may work for you including outright sales, hire or putting you in touch with a regional MT Experience Centre.
  • Some of this is about talking to your customers, listening to their advice and picking what might suit you (and them) best in order to offer more. 

When you have considered all this, spend money on making yourselves accessible, please, please, PLEASE tell the world about it!!! Look at our Promoting Your Accessible Venue & Accommodation page because this may make all the difference between guests finding you and staying and not bothering - because finding accessible accommodation is, at best, hit & miss and at worst, soul destroying. Educating owners is the easiest way for everyone to win!

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