Every few weeks we write about new things in the disability world – The ‘D’ List. This time we’re looking at ways you can make your home accessible without looking like a 70’s hospital. To make your home disability friendly, either due to temporary or permanent handicap, is a challenge but there are some resources you can refer to before you start.
There are the UK Governments ‘Approved Document M’ Regulations or Doc M and this is a term most builders/architects will use when referring to accessible refurbishments. A long winded document as you’d expect and there are also free publications from the Centre for Accessible Environments that are slightly easier to read if you know what you’re looking for. AKW, suppliers of Document M (Doc M) packs, also have good advice, in plain english, on their website regarding wet rooms and showers. All of these give you an idea of what’s required so that you’re not forced into something you don’t want or can’t live with, remember it’s your home and you don’t have to accept the goods/advice most professionals (OT’s, Architects, Builders) recommend i.e. the Doc M Packs for grab rails and bathrooms.
The Doc M packs do a job but are far from modern or stylish. Even if your local council are involved in financing adaptations, you can specify your preferences and pay any difference in price. Our founder, Fiona, did this and was able to install a wet room within the her Local Authority £5k budget. The images below show the difference between what was recommended and what was installed……..
So, here are our tips on making your home accessible with a sense of style:
1st The Bathroom
Usually the place that needs largest re-design and if you want/have to use Doc M packs then there are two ways to keep it stylish – make the fixings a bold feature or keep it simple.
The image below shows how using dark coloured standard fittings against a stone/marble wall can make the grab rails a feature. At recently reviewed Mere restaurant, matt black grab rails added a modern touch, (more about grab rails later).
Or, you can keep it simple, make your bathroom totally white and add just a touch of style with one element of luxury such as a modern shower seat or a state of the art sink. Good design elements can be found from German manufacturers HEWI or Keuco. They can be expensive but you only need one item to make a difference even if it’s just a toilet roll holder. Modern accessible bathroom fittings can also be found at Moen in the USA and Ponte Giulio in Italy. Most of these can be bought online from Blue Badge Style Recommended designed2enable (mention us and you may get a discount).
2nd Grab Rails
These are usually added willy nilly around a home by the over zealous Occupational Therapists but before you transform your home into a children’s playground there are things you can do make them less ugly. There are rails that can be recessed into walls when not in use and others that can be taken off when not needed. Examples can be seen in our reviews of the Mondrian Hotel and One Aldwych, where metal plates hide the fixings to which temporary rails an be attached. Motion Spot designers are a good resource to use in any bathroom/grab rail adaptation and coincidentally designed the Best Accessible Loo at the annual BBS Awards. There’s no reason why these rails can’t be used in other areas of your home.
Another way to incorporate grab rails into your home is to make them a feature particularly if they’re needed to help guide people with partial sight. These from Rails Direct, Wales, are fantastic and not as expensive as you’d think. Any grab rail can be re-coated to your specification as they’re either metal or plastic and a paint sprayer can do the job with the correct paint finish.
3rd Ramps to give flat access where stairs are too difficult to climb.
The picture below shows what not to do and there are imaginative solutions dating back to 1949.
Ramps don’t have to be unsightly metal monstrosities. This one from the USA shows how elegant they can be….
Even back in 1949 Frank Lloyd Wright got it right for a disabled war veteran. He made sure that there were ‘wide doors & halls and level thresholds’ perhaps this example should be shown to any professional you employ so that your home can be a thing of beauty too!?
There are obviously other areas of your home such as the kitchen that need adaptation and we will cover these in a future article but here’s a previous review on the subject in the meantime. If you found this useful or you have any advice or queries do get in touch and remember making your home accessible and disability friendly should be just another bespoke project for your builder.