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Access to and use of buildings

This page provides guidance for designers in relation to access and facilities within buildings for people regardless of disability' age or gender.

People should be able to gain access to and within buildings and use the facilities both as visitors and as people who work in them.

All new buildings (including dwellings) should comply with the requirements, as well as certain alterations or extensions to existing buildings.

The following list highlights the sections and requirements covered within Approved Document M relating to buildings other than dwellings:

  • Access statements must be submitted as part of the building regulation application in order to identify the philosophy and approach to inclusive design that has been adopted together with the key issues of schemes to assist building control in making judgements. The statement can be used to support a departure from the guidance given in Part M giving the reasons and the rationale for the approach taken or to identify any constraints imposed by an existing building and propose alternative or compensatory measures
  • Approach to building from site boundary/ car parking provision
  • Level/ramped/stepped approach to building
  • Hazards on access routes
  • Accessible entrances / doors and lobbies
  • Horizontal circulation in buildings including entrance halls, reception areas, internal doors and corridors
  • Passenger lifts, lifting platforms and wheelchair stairlifts
  • Internal steps/ramps
  • Audience/spectator facilities in sports/entertainment buildings
  • Refreshment facilities
  • Sleeping accommodation in hotels/ student accommodation
  • Use of switches/socket outlets and controls
  • Aids to communication
  • Sanitary accommodation/changing and shower facilities

Further guidance can be found in BS 8300.

The following list highlights the sections and requirements covered within Approved Document M relating to new dwellings:

  • Approach to dwelling - level / ramped / stepped approaches
  • Access into dwelling
  • Corridors/internal doors within entrance storey
  • Vertical circulation within entrance storey
  • Accessible switches and socket outlets
  • Lifts/common stairs in flats
  • Sanitary accommodation in entrance storey

The regulations require that reasonable provisions are made for a disabled person to approach and gain access to the dwelling from the point of alighting from a vehicle.

The provisions are expected to enable occupants with disabilities to "stay put" longer in their own homes but are not necessarily expected to facilitate fully independent living for all people with disabilities.

View the new Approved Document M

Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005

This Act became fully operational in October 2004 and could require "service providers" to remove or alter physical features in their premises that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use the service.

Equality Act 2010

The Act unified legislation which previously covered different aspects of discrimination separately. Previous legislation including the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005 were repealed. The Equalities Act imposes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to a physical feature in order to comply with section 20.

Although the guidance in Approved Document M, if followed tends to demonstrate compliance with Part M of the Building Regulations, this does not necessarily equate to the obligations and duties set out in the Equalities Act. This is because service providers and employers are required by the Equalities Act to make reasonable adjustments to any physical feature which might put a disabled person in a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person. In some instances this will include designing features or making reasonable adjustments to features that are outside the scope of Approved Document M.

For independent advice on the Disability Discrimination Act issues please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

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