Section 4: Facilities in buildings other than dwellings

  1. Section 4

    Section 4


    4.1 The aim is for all people to have access to, and the use of, all the facilities provided within buildings. They should also be able to participate in the proceedings at lecture/conference facilities and at entertainment or leisure and social venues, not only as spectators, but also as participants and/or staff.

    4.2 Where permanent or removable seating is provided as part of the design, allowance should be made for disabled people to have a choice of seating location at spectator events. It should also be possible for them to have a clear view of the activity taking place while not obstructing the view of others.

    4.3 In refreshment facilities, bars and counters (or sections of them) should be at a level suitable for wheelchair users. All floor areas, even when located at different levels, should be accessible.

    4.4 A proportion of the sleeping accommodation in hotels, motels and student accommodation should be designed for independent use by wheelchair users. The remainder should include facilities that make them suitable for people who do not use a wheelchair, but may have mobility, sensory, dexterity or learning difficulties.

    Audience and spectator facilities

    Design considerations

    4.5 Audience and spectator facilities fall primarily into three categories:

    a. lecture/conference facilities

    b. entertainment facilities (e.g. theatres/ cinemas)

    c. sports facilities (e.g. stadia).

    Note: The guidance here relates mainly to seating. For guidance on reception and sales counters, refer to 3.2 to 3.5.

    Audience facilities generally

    4.6 Wheelchair users and those with mobility or sensory impairment may need to view or listen from a particular side, or sit in the front for lip reading or to read sign interpreters. They should be provided with spaces into which they can manoeuvre easily, and which offer them a clear view of an event, while ensuring they are not segregated into special areas. Wheelchair users, people who have difficulty in using seats with fixed arms and those with assistance dogs should also have the choice of sitting next to a conventionally seated person or a companion wheelchair user. Consideration should be given to providing an area next to certain seats for an assistance dog to rest. By having some removable seating at the front and back of blocks of seats (possibly in complete rows), greater flexibility in location can be achieved and a greater number of wheelchair users than the minimum provision shown in Table 3 can be accommodated.

    4.7 Greater spacing between rows of seats at the rear of a block of seating, or at the end of rows, may provide extra legroom for people of large stature. With several seats removed, these locations may also be suitable for wheelchair users. It is desirable for seating to contrast visually with the surroundings.

    4.8 All users of facilities should be able to locate suitable seating and move safely and easily to and from the seating area and ancillary accommodation, such as lavatories, dining rooms and bedroom suites.

    Lecture/conference facilities

    4.9 People with hearing impairments should be able to participate fully in conferences, committee meetings and study groups. All people should be able to use presentation facilities. Consideration should be given to good sight lines and the design and location of lecture equipment (demonstration table, lectern, projection screen) to ensure that patterned walls, poor interior lighting or very bright natural back-lighting does not have a detrimental effect on the ability of people to receive information from a sign language interpreter or a lip speaker (see 4.32 to 4.34).

    Entertainment, leisure and social facilities

    4.10 In facilities for entertainment, e.g. theatres and cinemas, it is normal for seating to be more closely packed than in other types of auditoria. Care is needed in the design and location of wheelchair spaces so that all visitors can enjoy the atmosphere. Reference should also be made to Technical standard for places
    of entertainment.

    Sports facilities

    4.11 For guidance on integrating the needs of disabled people into the design of spectator facilities, in particular the provision of, and access to, suitable spaces for wheelchair users in stadia, see Guide to safety at sports grounds, Accessible stadia: a good practice guide to the design of facilities to meet the needs of disabled spectators and other users and accessible sports facilities.


    4.12 Audience and spectator facilities will satisfy Requirement M1 if:

    For audience seating generally

    a. the route to wheelchair spaces is accessible by wheelchair users;

    b. stepped access routes to audience seating are provided with fixed handrails (see 1.34 to 1.37 for details of handrails);

    c. the minimum number of permanent and removable spaces provided for wheelchair users is in accordance with Table 3;

    Table 3 Provision of wheelchair space in audience seating

    Table 3 Provision of wheelchair space in audience seating

    d. some wheelchair spaces (whether permanent or created by removing seats) are provided in pairs, with standard seating on at least one side (see Diagram 13);

    13 An example of wheelchair space in a lecture theatre

    Diagram 13 An example of wheelchair space in a lecture theatre

    e. where more than two wheelchair spaces are provided, they are located to give
    a range of views of the event at each side, as well as at the front and back of the seating area;

    f. the minimum clear space provided for access to wheelchair spaces is 900mm;

    g. the clear space allowance for an occupied wheelchair in a parked position is 900mm wide by 1400mm deep;

    h. the floor of each wheelchair space is horizontal;

    i. some seats are located so that an assistance dog can accompany its owner and rest in front of, or under, the seat;

    j. standard seats at the ends of rows and next to wheelchair spaces have detachable, or lift-up, arms;

    For seating on a stepped terraced floor

    k. wheelchair spaces at the back of a stepped terraced floor are provided in accordance with Diagram 14 or 15, the arrangement in Diagram 15 being particularly suitable for entertainment buildings, such as theatres or cinemas, subject to the approval of the licensing authority;

    For lecture/conference facilities

    l. where a podium or stage is provided, wheelchair users have access to it by means of a ramp or lifting platform;

    m. a hearing enhancement system in accordance with 4.36 is provided for people with impaired hearing.

    Refreshment facilities

    Design considerations

    4.13 Refreshment facilities, such as restaurants and bars, should be designed so that they can be reached and used by all people independently or with companions. Staff areas should also be accessible.

    4.14 All public areas, including lavatory accommodation, public telephones and external terraces should be accessible. Where premises contain self-service and waiter service, all patrons should have access to both.

    4.15 In many refreshment facilities, changes in level are used to differentiate between different functions or to create a certain atmosphere through interior design. Changes of floor level are acceptable provided the different levels are accessible.


    4.16 Refreshment facilities will satisfy Requirement M1 if:

    a. all users have access to all parts of the facility;

    b. part of the working surface of a bar or serving counter is permanently accessible to wheelchair users, and at a level of not more than 850mm above the floor and, where necessary, part at a higher level for people standing;

    c. the worktop of a shared refreshment facility (e.g. for tea making) is at 850mm above the floor with a clear space beneath at least 700mm above the floor (see Diagram 16) and the delivery of water complies with 5.4(a) and (b);

    d. a wheelchair-accessible threshold (see 2.7(e)) is located at the transition between an external seating area and the interior of the facility.

    14 Possible location of wheelchair spaces in fromt of a rear alsle

    Diagram 14 Possible location of wheelchair spaces in front of a rear aisle

    15 An example of wheelchair space provision in a cinema or theatre

    Diagram 15 An example of wheelchair space provision in a cinema or theatre

    16 An example of a shared refreshment facility

    Diagram 16 An example of a shared refreshment facility

    Sleeping accommodation

    Design considerations

    4.17 Sleeping accommodation, where provided for a significant number of people, e.g. in hotels, motels and student accommodation, should aim to be convenient for all. People who use wheelchairs are likely to require greater provision of space and access to en-suite sanitary accommodation. A proportion of rooms will, therefore, need to accommodate wheelchair users. In student accommodation, it is beneficial to have a wheelchair-accessible toilet available for use by disabled visitors.

    4.18 Wheelchair users should be able to reach all the facilities available within the building. In general, accessible bedrooms should be no less advantageously situated than other bedrooms. It would be beneficial if entrance doors to wheelchair-accessible bedrooms were powered opening, as this could avoid the need for the 300mm access space adjacent to the leading edge of the door.

    4.19 Wheelchair-accessible bedrooms should be sufficiently spacious to enable a wheelchair user to transfer to one side of a bed, with or without assistance. Wheelchair users should be able to manoeuvre around and use the facilities in the room, and operate switches and controls. They should also be able to gain access to and conveniently use sanitary accommodation and, where provided, balconies. En-suite sanitary facilities are the preferred option for wheelchair-accessible bedrooms. Unless there are compelling reasons for not doing so, there should be at least as many en-suite shower rooms as en-suite bathrooms, as mobility-impaired people may find it easier to use a shower than a bath. An en-suite shower room or bathroom would benefit from having a finger rinse basin adjacent to the WC, as well as a wash basin or basin in a vanity unit.

    4.20 It is also important to ensure that, in all bedrooms, built-in wardrobes and shelving are accessible and convenient to use. It is an advantage if curtains and
    blinds are provided with automatic or other remotely controlled opening devices such as rods or pull cords.

    4.21 Wheelchair users should also be able to visit companions in other bedrooms,
    for example when attending conferences or when on holiday with their families. In these instances, bedrooms not designed for independent use by a person in a wheelchair need to have the outer door wide enough to be accessible to a wheelchair user.

    4.22 For a proportion of wheelchair- accessible bedrooms, it would be useful to provide a connecting door to an adjacent bedroom for a companion.

    4.23 For people with limited manual dexterity, electronic card-activated locks for bedroom entrance doors and lever taps in sanitary accommodation can be an advantage.


    4.24 Sleeping accommodation will satisfy Requirement M1 if:

    For all bedrooms

    a. the effective clear width of the door from the access corridor complies with Table 2;

    b. swing doors, where provided for built-in wardrobes and other storage systems, open through 180°;

    c. handles on hinged and sliding doors are easy to grip and operate and contrast visually with the surface of the door;

    d. openable windows and window controls are located between 800 and 1000mm above the floor and are easy to operate without using both hands simultaneously;

    e. all bedrooms have a visual fire alarm signal, in addition to the requirements of Part B;

    f. any room numbers are indicated in embossed characters;

    For wheelchair-accessible bedrooms

    g. at least one wheelchair-accessible bedroom is provided for every 20 bedrooms, or part thereof;

    h. wheelchair-accessible bedrooms are located on accessible routes that lead to all other available facilities within the building;

    i. wheelchair-accessible bedrooms are designed to provide a choice of
    location and have a standard of amenity equivalent to that of other bedrooms;

    j. the door from the access corridor to a wheelchair-accessible bedroom complies with the relevant provisions of ‘Internal doors’ (see 3.10), in particular the maximum permissible opening force, Table 2 and the need for a clear space of 300mm from the leading edge of the door to the side wall;

    k. the effective clear width of any door to an en-suite bathroom or shower room within the wheelchair-accessible bedroom complies with Table 2;

    l. the size of wheelchair-accessible bedrooms allows for a wheelchair user to manoeuvre at the side of a bed, then transfer independently to it. An example of a wheelchair-accessible bedroom layout is shown in Diagram 17;

    m. sanitary facilities, en-suite to a wheelchair-accessible bedroom, comply with the provisions of 5.15 to 5.21 for ‘Wheelchair-accessible bathrooms’ or ‘Wheelchair-accessible shower facilities’;

    n. wide angle viewers, where provided in the entrance door to a wheelchair- accessible bedroom, are located at 1050mm and 1500mm above floor level, to enable viewing by people who are seated or standing;

    o. a balcony, where provided to a wheelchair-accessible bedroom, has a door whose effective clear width complies with Table 2, has a level threshold and has no horizontal transoms between 900mm and 1200mm above the floor;

    p. there are no permanent obstructions in a zone 1500mm back from any balcony doors;

    q. an emergency assistance alarm (together with a reset button) is located in a wheelchair-accessible bedroom and activated by a pull cord, sited so that it can be operated both from the bed and from an adjacent floor area;

    r. an emergency assistance call signal outside an accessible bedroom is located so that it can be easily seen and heard by those able to give assistance and,in any case, at a central control point.

    Switches, outlets and controls

    Design considerations

    4.25 The key factors that affect the use of switches, outlets and controls are ease of operation, visibility, height and freedom from obstruction. However, there will be exceptions to height requirements for some outlets, e.g. those set into the floor in open plan offices.

    17 One example of a wheelchair-accessible hotel bedroom with en-suite sanitary facilities

    Diagram 17 One example of a wheelchair-accessible hotel bedroom with en-suite sanitary facilities

    4.26 A consistent relationship with doorways and corners will further reinforce the ease with which people manipulate switches and controls.

    4.27 All users should be able to locate a control, know which setting it is on and use it without inadvertently changing its setting.

    4.28 Controls that contrast visually with their surroundings are more convenient for visually impaired people, as are light switches that are activated by a large push pad. The colours red and green should not be used in combination as indicators of ‘on’ and ‘off’ for switches and controls. It may be useful to use text or a pictogram to clarify the purpose and status of multiple switches and controls.

    4.29 It is also an advantage if individual switches on panels and on multiple socket outlets are well separated, or in the form of large touch plates, to avoid the inadvertent selection of an adjacent control by visually impaired people and people with limited dexterity.


    4.30 Switches, outlets and controls will satisfy Requirement M1 if:

    a. wall-mounted socket outlets, telephone points and TV sockets are located between 400mm and 1000mm above the floor, with a preference for the lower end of the range;

    b. switches for permanently wired appliances are located between 400mm and 1200mm above the floor, unless needed at a higher level for particular appliances;

    c. all switches and controls that require precise hand movements are located between 750mm and 1200mm above the floor;

    d. simple push button controls that require limited dexterity are not more than 1200mm above the floor;

    e. pull cords for emergency alarm systems are coloured red, located as close to
    a wall as possible and have two red 50mm diameter bangles, one set at 100mm and the other set between 800mm and 1000mm above the floor;

    f. controls that need close vision are located between 1200mm and 1400mm above the floor so that readings may be taken by a person sitting or standing (with thermostats at the top of the range);

    g. socket outlets are located consistently in relation to doorways and room corners, but in any case no nearer than 350mm from room corners;

    h. light switches for use by the general public have large push pads and align horizontally with door handles within the range 900 to 1100mm, for ease of location when entering a room;

    i. where switches described in 4.30(h) cannot be provided, lighting pull cords are set between 900mm and 1100mm above floor level, and fitted with a 50mm diameter bangle visually contrasting with its background and distinguishable visually from any emergency assistance pull cord;

    j. the operation of switches, outlets and controls does not require the simultaneous use of both hands, except where this mode of operation is necessary for safety reasons;

    k. switched socket outlets indicate whether they are ‘on’;

    l. mains and circuit isolator switches clearly indicate that they are on or off;
    m. front plates contrast visually with their backgrounds.

    Aids to communication

    Design considerations

    4.31 People will benefit most if there is an integrated system for wayfinding, public address and hearing enhancement.

    4.32 The appropriate choice of floor, wall and ceiling surface materials and finishes can help visually impaired people appreciate the boundaries of rooms or spaces, identify access routes and receive information. For example, glare and reflections from shiny surfaces, and large repeating patterns, should be avoided in spaces where visual acuity is critical as they will hamper communication for people with impaired vision, and those who lip read or use sign language. This would apply to locations such as reception areas with enquiry desks and speakers’ rostrums in lecture halls.

    4.33 The type and quality of public address, hearing enhancement and telephone systems should be chosen carefully to ensure intelligibility. The design of the acoustic environment should also ensure that audible information can be heard clearly.

    4.34 Artificial lighting should be designed to give good colour rendering of all surfaces, without creating glare or pools of bright light and strong shadows. Where appropriate, lighting should illuminate the face of a person speaking, to make lip reading easier where one-to-one communication is necessary. Uplighters mounted at low or floor level can disorientate some visually impaired people and should be avoided.

    4.35 In order to obtain the full benefit of attending public performances or taking part in discussions, a person with impaired hearing needs to receive a signal that is amplified in both volume and signal to noise ratio. The three systems commonly used to provide this enhanced level of sound are induction loop, infrared and radio. Sound field systems are also increasingly being used, particularly in educational establishments. In larger spaces, provision needs to be made for a permanent system, but in small meeting rooms, a portable induction loop would be acceptable. It should be recognised that there is the danger where adjacent spaces each have an induction loop system that the signals may overlap.

    Note: Detailed guidance on surface finishes, visual, audible and tactile signs, as well as the characteristics and appropriate choice and use of hearing enhancement systems, is available in BS 8300.


    4.36 Aids to communication will satisfy Requirement M1 if:

    a. a clearly audible public address system is supplemented by visual information;

    b. provision for a hearing enhancement system is installed in rooms and spaces designed for meetings, lectures, classes, performances, spectator sport or films, and at service or reception counters when they are situated in noisy areas
    or they are behind glazed screens;

    c. the presence of an induction loop or infrared hearing enhancement system is indicated by the standard symbol;

    d. telephones suitable for hearing aid users are clearly indicated by the standard ear and ‘T’ symbol and incorporate an inductive coupler and volume control;

    e. text telephones for deaf and hard of hearing people are clearly indicated by the standard symbol;

    f. artificial lighting is designed to be compatible with other electronic and radio frequency installations.