Significant issues are raised by the issue of the new BS 8300 and its conflict with Building Regulations (E&W) Approved Documents K and M. Less affected are Scottish Technical Handbooks and Northern Irish Technical Booklets; they refer to BS 8300 as guidance, but make fewer direct references. In Ireland reference is made to international standard ISO/CD 21542.2 Building construction – Accessibility and usability of built environment; those requirements are not relevant to this discussion.

March 2009 saw the launch of the latest BS 8300, Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people – Code of practice, an update of the 2001 version. Supported by contemporary research, it signals an evolution of thought and approach on inclusive access. It still offers recommended prescriptive solutions in a climate of policy objectives and risk appraisal – useful for the strong contingent of access officers attending the launch. For designers, however, it presents a problem when used alongside Approved Document M (AD M) which cites the 2001 version (and will do for some while to come): which document takes precedence? The answer may seem obvious: ‘the latest BS’, but there are areas where this can be tricky.

The prescriptive recommendations of AD M may now be at odds with those in BS 8300:2009, especially true when looking at stairs, more so if viewed alongside AD K which defers to AD M. The new BS 8300 is based on (the forthcoming) BS 5395-1:2009 Stairs, ladders and walkways – Part 1: Code of practice for the design, construction and maintenance of straight stairs and winders, which replaces the 1977 version. AD K offers this old code of practice as an alternative approach to using the 550 ≤ 2R + G ≤ 700 mm formula for steepness of stairs. So, BS 8300 now suggests a greater going (300–450 mm) and lower rise (150– 180 mm), but offsets this by increasing the 'permissible' number of risers in a flight to 20. The change is a result of research into the causes of slips on stairways, but there are some who disagree with the recommendations, and this could be a contentious issue when working with access groups. There is also scope for conflict with developers and Building Control, and the matter needs dealing with at an early design stage if stairways are to coordinate with requirements and layouts.

Another area to watch is applicability. Ironically, BS 8300 does not apply to residential buildings for severely disabled people, nor does it apply to temporary structures (this is not defined in the Code of Practice, and under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) may raise issues when looking at temporary installations accessible to the public). Significantly, BS 8300 no longer applies to individual dwellings, but instead cites DD 266:2007 Design of accessible housing – Lifetime home – Code of Practice. (Note: DD 266 should become a British Standard in due course and replace Joseph Rowntree Foundation standards.) BS 8300 may still, however, be referred to for guidance as appropriate.

A further seeming anomaly is that BS 8300 applies to routes to facilities associated with buildings, whereas AD M only covers buildings and access routes to said buildings. This is significant when considering DDA compliance in relation to equal access to publicly accessible spaces, features and services therein.

Necessarily, egress and means of escape is given more consideration, with direction to BS 9999, but there is little in terms of detail. This ties in with risk assessment approaches to fire safety, e.g. the Department for Communities and Local Government series of fire safety risk assessment documents for given building types, and specifically the supplementary guide on means of escape for disabled people. See externallink.

The 2009 version of BS 8300 picks up topics from the 2001 version and draws from interim research to expand on content. In addition to stair pitch, some of the most significant areas of development are:

  • Slip resistance – new Annex E giving guidance on exact slip resistance values
  • Visual contrast – new Annex B giving specific values for light reflectance values (LRVs) for the BS 4800 range of colours
  • Doors and doorways – greater detail on location and closing furniture
  • Accessible bedrooms – increased recommendation for provision.

One of the most laudable changes to BS 8300 is the recommendation for the provision of ‘Changing Places’. These are new toilet and sanitary/ changing facilities for use by disabled persons and their carers where conventional accessible toilets are inadequate. They offer adequate space for the disabled person and up to two carers and incorporate a centrally placed toilet, height adjustable adult-sized changing bench, hoist, screen or curtain and often have wash-down facilities. They are recommended for large publicly accessible places such as shopping malls, airports, or motorway service stations. Changing Places make it possible for more people, especially those with profound and multiple learning difficulties, to get out and enjoy facilities most of us take for granted, and to do so with dignity. The scheme is supported by Pamis and Mencap and further detail can be found at externallink.

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