Building Control - Disabled access in and around buildings

Our urban environment has not in general been designed with the needs of disabled people in mind, yet about one person in twenty has some form of permanent or temporary disability which makes mobility difficult.

Disability covers more than the obvious conditions such as blindness or confinement to a wheelchair. Breathlessness, the need to walk with a stick, difficulty of gripping due to paralysis or arthritis, lack of co-ordination, partial sight, deafness and pregnancy can all affect a person’s mobility in the environment. It makes practical sense to ensure that design takes account of this group.

Advances in medical care and changing social attitude means that the numbers of elderly disabled people who wish to follow an independent life will increase.

Equality & Diversity

The design of buildings and their approaches should be in accordance with the guidance contained in

The Harlow Area Access Group actively promotes the adoption of inclusive design and management to create environments which are accessible & usable by everyone.​

General guidance

Below is some general guidance on compliance with the Building Regulations and British standards code of practice:

Access statements

Access statements should be submitted as part of Planning and Building Control submissions. These must highlight conditions where there are areas of non-compliance with either planning policy, planning guidance or the requirements of Approved Document M of the Building Regulations.

Car parking

  • Business Premises
    • Up to 200 bays: Individual bays for each disabled employee plus two bays or 5% of the total capacity whichever is the greater.
    • Over 200 bays: six bays plus 2% of the total capacity.
  • Shopping Leisure and Recreation
    • Up to 200 bays: three bays or 6% of the total capacity whichever is the greater
    • Over 200 bays: four bays plus 4% of the total capacity Location
  • General points
    • Spaces should be located within 50 metres of an accessible entrance and desirably be under cover.
    • Parking Bays need to be wide enough to accommodate wheelchair traffic to and from the car.
    • The minimum size of a bay must be not less than 6000 x 3300.
    • Reserved spaces should be denoted by clear signposting at the entrance and beside the space itself.

Surfacing and hard landscaping

Design: Internal and external surfaces should be firm, non slip and well laid. Where changes in direction or levels do occur the path edge should be defined with a colour contrast, textured surface or where appropriate upstand kerb or low rail.

Street furniture: Should be clearly distinguishable from surrounding and be clearly defined. Projecting covers, isolated steps and large aperture gratings are to be avoided.


Dimensions: Pathways should be a minimum of 1.8 metres wide and 2 metres wide if possible.

Movement: Pathways should be clear of obstacles; edges should be clearly defined and routes from roads, bus stops and car parks should be signposted and well lit.

Kerbs: Dropped kerbs, flush with the carriageway, which offer a gradient of maximum ratio of 1:10 should be used subject to detailed design and drainage requirements; use of non slip textured-footway surface and pedestrian crossings are advisable.

Entering the building

Changes in levels should be avoided, especially at entrances and exits. Where this is not possible both ramps and steps should be available.

Ramps - Dimensions: Ramps should have a clear width of at least 1.5 metres,100mm high kerbs and have a preferred gradient of 1:20. At the beginning and end of a ramp a level platform 1.8 metres long should be provided. On long ramps a level platform a minimum of 1.5 metres long should be provided at 10.0 metre intervals. The surface of ramps should be non-slip particularly when wet.

Features: Handrails should be provided on both sides of the ramps. Entrance should be well lit and ideally protected from the weather.


Dimensions: Steps should be at least 1.2 metres wide. The goings of stairs should be a minimum of 280mm and the risers a maximum of 150mm. Open risers should be avoided.

Features: The edges of steps or stairs should be clearly defined. The approach to a flight of stairs should also be indicated and the actual materials used need to be hard wearing and non slip.


Dimensions: Handrails should be located 1.0 metre above a landing and be no more that 900mm above the nosing lines of the steps, and preferably be to the door entrance or at least 450mm beyond the end of the steps. Handrails should be between 45mm and 50mm in diameter and 45mm from the adjacent wall and be made of an easy to grasp material; they should be continuous yet end in a clearly recognisable manner such as returning to the wall.


Dimensions: Doors should have a minimum clear opening width of 800mm (830mm is preferred) for a wheelchair. Where double doors are used at least one door should be a minimum of 800mm wide.

Types: Revolving and heavy doors are to be avoided. Automatic sliding doors are desirable where hinged doors are required for safety reasons extra care needs to be taken to ensure they are usable by disabled people.

Materials: Glazed doors should be easily distinguishable. Vision panels, extended to low level, are desired as they can help visibility in the building. The effort of getting around can be eased if the circulation, displays and facilities are considered at an early stage of design.


Main facilities should be at main entrance level, where if small changes in level do occur they can be dealt with by duplicating stairs and ramps. Routes from entrance doors to lifts, stairs, enquiry desks and toilets should be clearly defined and unobstructed. Seating should be generously provided especially around areas where waiting is likely. It should be of stable construction and be available in a choice of heights. Telephones, counters and checkouts should be accessible and usable by disabled persons. Handrails should be used to assist ambulant disabled people.


Dimensions: Corridors should have a minimum unobstructed width of 1.2m with appliances recessed to avoid projecting space..

Features: Splayed or rounded corners are desirable, deep pile carpets are to be avoided as are tiled floors which are not slip-resistant. Contrast is desirable between doors and walls.


Dimensions: Lifts should have minimum internal measurements of 1.1 metres wide by 1.4 metres deep. There should be 1.5 metres of unobstructed space in front of the lift entrance and entrance doors should have 830mm of clear opening width (minimum 800). Controls should be no higher than 1.4 metres above floor level with embossed digits a desirable added feature.


The minimum dimensions of a toilet cubicle should be 2.2 metres by 1.5 metres with a metre wide outward opening of sliding entrance door and have a non-slip floor. Various layouts are suitable. (see BS8300)


Information should be clear and unambiguous - carefully sited at convenient, readable heights and be readily distinguishable form the background by use of strong contrast. Standardised symbols should be used where appropriate and raised/embossed symbols/Braille located within reach.