Advice for Designing an Accessible Home — Scope | Disability forum
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Advice for Designing an Accessible Home

Snowbelle Community member Posts: 44 Courageous
I would really appreciate any advice or point me in the direction on where I can get information and advice on designing an accessible home.  I am in the lucky situation that I will be able to influence how my new house will be built & designed.  I want to make sure the house will be accessible as possible (& ideally future proofed).

Accessibility needs:
- wheelchair accessible (may need to be accessible for a tilt & recline wheelchair.  I don't have one yet, but wouldn't be able to get around without one at least a few days each month.
- Reduce need for physical energy expenditure - I have ME so have a low physical & cognitive activity threshold & going above that causes my health to decline
- sound-proof (noise sensitivity)
- reduce Electromagnetic frequencies (I don't know for certain if I'm sensitive, but know a lot of people with ME are, so it makes sense to design in a way to reduce EMF as much as possible e.g. there are curtains made out of thin metal that block EMF - but I've no idea of their details or where to get them.
- as much as possible useable from a sitting or reclining position.
- decrease need to raise arms above head.
- as much natural light as possible (sensitive to aritificial light)

I'd love any ideas for where to get information, tips of adaptation to include, or needs I might not have thought of to consider.

Thanks so much,



  • Adrian_Scope
    Adrian_Scope Posts: 9,767 Scope online community team
    Hi @Snowbelle. This sounds like a big undertaking. I completely understand wanting to get some advice before you take the plunge.
    Have you had a look at this article from BuildIt?

    We also had a guest blog a few months ago that might be of interest to you, at least in terms of getting some ideas. It might also be worth speaking to an occupational therapist about what they'd recommend from the ground up.
    Community Manager
  • Snowbelle
    Snowbelle Community member Posts: 44 Courageous
    Thanks so much @Adrain_scope.  I'd actually just discovered that BuildIt article before bed last night & looking forward to reading it again today.  Thanks as well for the guest blog link - another great resource.  Think I'll be checking out their instagram for ideas!
  • pollyanna1052
    pollyanna1052 Community member Posts: 2,032 Disability Gamechanger
    What about googling  for an architect experienced in building homes for disabled people...or have you already done that?
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Posts: 10,586 Disability Gamechanger
    edited January 2020
    Habinteg Housing Association might have some really useful information!

    Here is some more information about them:
    Habinteg Housing Association is a registered social housing provider with 50 years’ experience building and promoting accessible homes and communities. We own and manage more than 3300 homes and we operate in 86 local authorities across England and Wales.

    We believe that having an accessible home in an inclusive setting can transform the lives of disabled people and those around them. We want communities to include disabled people, offering places to live that meet their needs and provide the highest levels of independence, choice and control over their daily lives.

    Our mission is to champion inclusion by providing and promoting accessible homes and neighbourhoods that welcome and include everyone.

  • georgewm
    georgewm Community member Posts: 11 Listener
    I don’t think that you will have any trouble getting advice and ideas for your house. My advice is don’t forget the outside. Easy access into your house and wide smooth paths in your garden area and if you have a gate make sure that you can manage it.
    you are extremely lucky to have a say in what you want, good luck.
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Posts: 10,586 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @Snowbelle, how are things going? :)

  • newborn
    newborn Community member Posts: 830 Pioneering
    Yes, Habinteg pioneered, and Greenwich advanced on that.  But there were a few missing bits, for instance, as said, not forgetting outside.   Not just access, it now needs to be suited to future droughts,  when there will be bans on watering, as well as giving year round interest and if possible attracting any wildlife. 

    My own ideas would include ensuring more than enough electric  points, because at stages, people may  control their world from bed, e.g. closing curtains etc.. At installation,  it costs hardly any extra to put ample capacity  in your consumer unit. Ceiling tracks and similar will be in the Habinteg.

     Greenwich says ignore the standard building  regs regarding the so called  'wheelchair  door and turning circle dimensions',  based on old style  chairs,  because who knows if you may have a future visitor with a bariatric chair? Wider is wiser!

    The other thing is to make everything reachable,  e.g. a ceiling light bulb is hard to replace,  or ask a helper to replace, but a lamp is easy.  

    Underfloor heating means no wall rads to crash into.  But I suggest never have rads under windows,  in fact mainly don't have conventional windows.  Modern design tends in any case to use floor to ceiling,  patio, maximum  natural  light,. A view of nature is uplifting for anyone, but for those spending a lot of time indoors,  it is vital that  from a sitting or lying down position,  there is a view. Ideally,  even  the bedroom needs an opening patio or french doors, so people can get into the sun while in bed.

    Obviously people put themselves forward as kitchen designers for silly money, but be careful because what you personally  want might be different from what their imagined wheelchair user is supposed to be given. Also, some of the flashy high cost stuff is in fact available at any old IKEA  or Homebase or similar.  A lot is o.t.t., such as having worktops  and  sinks rising and falling,  when for most people,  what is  right for you is right.  It often isn't standard  worktop height but there's no reason why ordinary units can't be used, just without  the  plinth on the bottom, or just selecting units that lend themselves to cutting off .

    Wall hanging loos are good because you can choose the exact height,  and because  they are so easy to clean  underneath.  You are designing, so you know what suits for side transfer, or if you need the over-chair.    You can design-in ledges and rails round rooms and in bathrooms,  so it doesn't look medical,  but it just  happens to provide effectively  grab rails all over the place for furniture-walkers.

    The  last thing is to make the house eco-friendly,  in as many ways as possible,  because nobody knows if there will  be water and power shortages within a few years.  Maybe a back up generator would make sense for people who  cannot  afford to be without power. And a decent water store, for those who cannot go and collect from a water cart.   You need to anticipate being so well insulated that your home will keep out future heatwaves.  Also,  there are already whole home  air filter systems similar to the one-room dyson cool, to remove dangerous micropollution, which will get worse.
  • newborn
    newborn Community member Posts: 830 Pioneering
    ME specific advice will come from their organisations.  
    It would be interesting to know if full spectrum daylight lighting is easier to live with than other bulbs.

    One aspect is that presumably the house will be not only your home but your private asset. It would primarily  need to meet your individual requirements,  but a disabled friendly house might as well be as universally friendly as is compatible with that. 

    Obviously the objective is to stay, ideally for the rest of your days.   But shockingly,  given the dearth of accessible housing,  there is no effective register and no premium.    Mostly,  because horrid ugly institutionalised  retrofitting makes  homes unattractive,  it is expensively ripped out before the next occupants view it.

    If you can make it desirable,  you  increase, instead of decreasing,  your investment,  and perhaps more imortantly, you produce a lasting  legacy of a worthwhile addition to the  world's housing stock.

    Will you have semi-separate quarters for resident carers?

    Will you have an automatic wash-dry loo?

    There are lots of mini decisions,  where you need not to let the builders do whatever is standard.   
    Are you sensitive  to off-gassing from paint, glue, chemicals in construction materials? 
    There are natural materials to substitute,  and they need not invariably be costly.

    There are work-rounds for many obstacles to independent living,  e.g. some wheelchair users have ingenious tricks to shut doors behind them.  Forums archives will help.    

    There is a range of cupboard and door closers which will include some impossible and others ideal.  

    Door closers are a huge avoidable frustration,  mainly because builders  W R O N G L Y,  and belligerently,  adjust them to suit a fit young male manual worker like themselves,  not the weakest frailest potential users including those in wheelchairs or barely able to walk.    (Building regs suggest maximum 20 newton opening strength, but the word ' maximum ' is not, not, not, a legal definition of 'mandatory minimum'.  ) 

    Builders and town hall  officials  have a vague notion that somehow  the fire brigades insist on  unopenable  doors, in order to trap, and therefore to ensure the incineration of,  all cripples and kiddies and other weaklings.
    They don't. 

  • Curt
    Curt Community member Posts: 8 Listener
    edited April 2020
    Regarding easy access into houses, Rapid Ramp do a metal wheelchair ramp, if helps:
    Also here some info on legislation on access to dwellings:

    I wish you all the best in your research.


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