Methodology

On these pages we set out the criteria we apply when researching/visiting places. There is a list of the Abbreviations used, and we include some comparisons between our write-ups, and the information provided by others.

Our guides are descriptive, and what we provide is basic information about physical access – to enable a potential visitor to assess the practicality of making a visit, and, perhaps to plan activities for a whole day.

They are researched by visit, by people with motor disabilities, and/or by those who have extensive experience of getting around with disabled friends. All are experienced travellers.  In some cases we describe the barriers on the ‘accessible’ route and compare them with those encountered in going around the standard way.

We do NOT, generally, simply reproduce what the management say, as they will almost certainly not be writing/speaking from experience.

A listing does NOT necessarily imply that a place or building is accessible, as we describe the barriers, and try to highlight how to get around them wherever possible.   THIS IS AN IMPORTANT POINT OF PRINCIPLE.

The descriptive approach is based on the fact that people’s abilities are highly variable. The needs and abilities of a disabled walker or an electric chair user, or someone in a manual chair with two strong friends are quite different. In recent years, an increasing number of people are using large heavy electric chairs, and disabled walkers are using electric buggies, which are typically somewhat bigger and less manoeuvrable than manual chairs.

We include here a pdf showing the different kinds of lift which we describe, together with some basic design criteria for a chair user     Lifts and design criteria diagrams

We also include an account of the definitions we use throughout the Guide – for consistence and clarity. These cover the units we use, our description of accessible toilets, and the way we describe steps. We also include a list of abbreviations which we use.     Definitions and abbreviations Mar 2013

We don’t attempt to assess ‘access’ for those with hearing or sight impairments not because they are not important, but because these needs aren’t so easy to define, describe and more especially, to test. They lie, generally, outside the skills of our visitors/assessors. A description of the physical access barriers is frequently helpful to those with hearing and visual impairment.

We think that the current fashion for producing a compendium document about site/venue accessibility including notes about all kinds of different aspects, often mixed in with general information, can be less than helpful. It satisfies the necessity of the management to ‘cover their backsides’, but trying to include every aspect of access rather than concentrating on the different needs separately is not necessarily helpful. It’s often difficult to sift through website pages and find the paragraph or two about what you specifically need to know. It also means that much of the information is entered by people (with goodwill, BUT) who don’t know what they are talking about.

 

Wheelchair toilets/adapted toilets criteria, and our use of the term accessible toilet

Many places now provide an ‘accessible toilet’, which nearly always means that it can in principle be reached step-free, and has a larger than usual cubicle. Much depends on when it was installed, as standards have been raised over the years. It is important to recognise that not every toilet with a wheelchair sign on the door, and/or uses the RADAR key to get in, is necessarily suitable for use by a wheelchair user.
The situation has recently got slightly worse, as baby change facilities have been added to ‘accessible toilets’ where there was already no spare space.

In our descriptions, we make a distinction between:
wheelchair toilets, which we define as ones where the door opens out with a width (W) of 70 cm or more, and there is a minimum of 70 cm of side transfer (ST) space alongside the toilet (see the diagram below; and
adapted toilets which toilets which do not quite meet these criteria, including some where the door opens inwards, and we provide an appropriate description and the measurements.

Where we have not actually seen and measured the toilet cubicle, but where the installation is recent and should meet modern standards, we have referred to accessible toilets with step-free access. In some cases this is because, as at a big sports ground, there are many such toilets, and we haven’t checked every one. Where the measurement appears in the text, we have seen it.

We understand, of course, that there are many other important factors, including the height of the toilet pan; the position of the flush mechanism, washbasin, mirror and toilet paper dispenser – and the space for a bin for sanitary towel disposal. To include all this detail would result in a publication the size of the Encylopaedia Britannica, which would confuse rather than clarify, so we have concentrated on the essentials.

Good basic design criteria for the design of a unisex toilet for use by disabled people is illustrated in the following diagram:

 

There are some very basic considerations, illustrated in the diagrams:

  • a disabled person’s preference is to have facilities like door levers, switches and controls at a height broadly between 50 and 100cm;
  • the maximum width of a manual wheelchair is just over 70cm;
  • disabled walkers and elderly people who may need to lean on someone’s arm need wider doors and corridors for getting around comfortably;
  • to enable a chair user to turn around a clear circle of 160cm is required.

While chair users are not the only people to be considered, if the facilities are suitable for them, implying step free access, then they will be suitable for most disabled walkers, and many people with visual impairment as well. The provision of appropriate grab bars is important.

For the best advice on these subjects and on related ones, look at the Good Loo Design Guide and at Designing for Accessibility both published jointly by the Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) and RIBA Enterprises in 2004.