Materials and finishes are far from the only things to consider when choosing your flooring. New regulations on access and facilities for disabled users are about to change the way floors must be specified. Alex Smith has the details
Proposed changes to the Building Regulations covering access and facilities for disabled people will affect the specification of flooring in a number of ways.

The amendments will bring Part M into line with Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act and the new British Standard BS 8300:2001 (Design of Buildings and Their Approaches to Meet the Needs of Disabled People). The standard shows how architects can comply with the DDA and explains how buildings can be designed to overcome restrictions that prevent people from making full use of their surroundings.

The amendments to Part M apply to non-dwellings only and the effects of the changes on the specification of flooring and internal ramps are as follows:

Entrance hall and reception
The designer will satisfy the requirement of Part M if the reception point is identifiable from the entrance doors or lobby, and the approach to it is direct and free from obstructions.

Corridors and passageways

  • Where the floor has a gradient less steep than 1:20, no sloping section must rise more than 500 mm without a horizontal rest area at least 1500 mm long.
  • Any sloping section must extend the full width of the corridor, or if not, the exposed edge must be clearly identified by a visually contrasting physical feature.
  • Patterned structural floor surface finishes should be avoided as they may be mistaken for steps or changes of level.

    Internal lobby
    Floor surface materials within the internal lobby area must not impede movement.

    Internal ramps

  • Gradients should be as low as practicable, as steep gradients create difficulties for some wheelchair users who lack the strength to propel themselves up a slope or have difficulty in slowing down or stopping when descending.
  • Wheelchair users need adequate space to stop on landings, to open and pass through doors without the need to reverse into circulation routes or to face the risk of rolling back down slopes.
  • Ramps are not necessarily safe and convenient for people who have difficulty walking. For example, some disabled people find it easier to negotiate a stair than a ramp. Therefore, where the change in level is 200 mm or more, steps should be provided in addition to a ramp. Where the change in level is no greater than 200 mm, a ramp should be provided instead of a single step.
  • Any ramp approach should be either apparent or clearly sign-posted.

    Limits for ramp gradients
    The gradient of a ramp and the distance between landings should be as follows:

  • No ramp must have a length greater than 10 m, or a rise of more than 500 mm.
  • There must be an alternative means of access for wheelchair users when the total rise is greater than 2 m.
  • A ramp must have a surface width of at least 1.5 m.

    Ramp surface

  • The ramp surface must be slip-resistant when wet and of a colour that contrasts visually with that of the landings. BS 5395-1 gives guidance on the slip resistance of stair and floor surfaces.
  • The friction of the ramp and landing surfaces should be similar to minimise the risk of stumbling.
  • Deep-pile carpet should not be used for the surface of a ramp.


  • There should be a landing at the foot and head of the ramp at least 1.2 m long and clear of any door swings or other obstructions.
  • Any intermediate landings must be at least 1.5 m long and clear of any door swings or other obstructions.
  • When it is not possible for a wheelchair user to see from one end of the ramp to the other, intermediate landings should be at least 1800 mm wide and 1800 mm long to act as passing places.
  • All landings should be level, subject to a maximum cross fall gradient of 1:50.

    The proposed changes will apply to new buildings and to existing buildings when they undergo a change of use. Listed buildings will be exempt from the changes, as will buildings where full compliance is impossible or impractical.

  • Related files/tables

    Floor coverings