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My own home isn't quite as accessible as I thought!
30 April 2011
How I found out the hard way that the guidance and dimensions stated within building regulations are only minimal guidelines when it comes to creating homes for wheelchair users.
When we refurbished our own house, a traditional Victorian villa, we worked hard to comply with Scotland’s building regulations. Since then, we created Ruby Slippers’ ageless design concept and I wanted to see how well our home complied with our own principles.
As it turns out, our home isn’t quite as accessible as I thought! I borrowed a wheelchair from a very kind OT and spent the weekend testing our house for manoeuvrability.
On the plus side, the doorways were wide enough to let me pass through relatively unscathed. I only skinned my knuckles twice and that was on the way through to the ensuite where we skimped on putting in similarly generously proportioned doors. The front door is marked by a small curbed step which is surmountable with a bit of practice; the pull-out drawers in the kitchen keep the contents within easy reach; most of the light switches and sockets are accessible and I was able roll straight into the level access shower and up to the console basin.
However, there were some definite lowlights too: the compact wall hung WC was rather too neat and too low for easy transfer (front or lateral) and its overall projection meant that the WC bowl didn’t conform easily to the commode chair option either. My lovely level access shower may have been easy to access but there was precious little space once occupied by an 1100x700mm wheelchair and, classic error, while I could fit my knees under the basin, I couldn’t see my reflection in the mirror!
The lovely clear run between the kitchen island and rear wall of cupboard, correctly complying with the recommended 1200mm clearance, suddenly became the most annoying ‘corridor’ requiring me to wheel backwards and forwards to reach each and every pan, utensil and ingredient. And the little 15mm threshold between the kitchen and sitting room, the most popular route in the house, was transformed into the equivalent of a giant speed bump!
So, to the moral of this story: if you are designing a home for a wheelchair user, remember that the guidance and dimensions provided by building regulations are minimum guidelines only. They might ensure your home is accessible, but that doesn’t mean it will be comfortable!
If you've had a similar experience and want to share some of your learnings, email me at email@example.com.
Lisa set up Ruby Slippers when she discovered how little specialist assistance was available to help her family update their homes in their retirement years. Here, she regularly shares her thoughts and experiences.
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