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Building Regulations for Wheelchair Ramps

We are quite often asked questions about building regulations and wheelchair ramps and our usual answer is to check with your architect what is required.

The reason we say this is because it is such a complicated issue

Do Wheelchair Ramps Have to Comply With Building Regulations?

Yes – No – Maybe – Read on to find out more.

Building Regulations for Wheelchair Ramps on New Builds

If it is a new build you, your architect, surveyor, project manager, builder, etc. should have been aware of the need for disabled access before the project even started and allowed for it.

If you are nearing completion of the building, have a step, and your building control mention you need to be Part M compliant you need to go back to your architect and ask why this hasn’t been taken in to consideration.

If they pass the buck, which they invariable do, you need to ask your project manager or builder why it wasn’t considered and ask them to remedy the situation at their expense.

If they pass the buck, we were only following the plans guv, it’s down to you to remedy the situation.

The next issue is what building regulations do I need to comply to for wheelchair ramps or disabled access?

The main regulations are covered in Approved Document M

The problem is, Part M is in 2 volumes

Volume 1 – Dwellings

Volume 2 – Buildings other than Dwellings

To complicate issues more Volume 1 is in 3 categories

Category 1 – Visitable dwellings
Category 2 – Accessible and adaptable dwellings
Category 3 – Wheelchair user dwellings

Category 1 is the standard category with categories 2 and 3 only applying where required by planning permission.

To find out which Volume and which category your building is in you need to speak to your Architect, planners or local building control.

Having determined which approved document you need to comply with your next problem is your local building control inspector won’t tell you what to do to comply but will only tell you to make sure what you do is compliant.

You may think that’s not very helpful, but the problem is, if he tells you what to do and there is a problem it can come back on him – you only options are to get someone in who knows the regulations or research them yourself.

Your next problem

If the step leaves you no alternative apart from installing a ramp, you not only have to comply with approved document Part M – Access to and use of buildings you may also have to comply to Part K – Protection from falling, collision and impact, and Part C – Site preparation and resistance to contaminates and moisture

Good luck and happy reading

TIP: Whenever possible treat disabled access as part of a landscaping project rather than a building project. rather than having a ramp and all the problems it creates if you can have a longer gradual slope shallower than a 1:20 gradient it is classed as a sloped approach rather than a ramp – Part M still applies but is far easier to comply to.

Building Regulations for Wheelchair Ramps on Existing Buildings

You thought the part about disabled access on new builds was complicated, this is even worse.

The 1st thing you have to consider is what are you doing?

Are you just updating, modifying, extending an existing building or are you making a material change of use of the building

If you are making a material change of use you them need to determine what is the purpose for which or the circumstances in which a building is used?

These are;
(a) the building is used as a dwelling, where previously it was not;
(b) the building contains a flat, where previously it did not;
(c) the building is used as an hotel or a boarding house, where previously it was not;
(d) the building is used as an institution, where previously it was not;
(e) the building is used as a public building, where previously it was not;
(f) the building is not a building described in classes 1 to 6 in Schedule 2, where previously it was;
(g) the building, which contains at least one dwelling, contains a greater or lesser number of dwellings than it did previously;
(h) the building contains a room for residential purposes, where previously it did not;
(i) the building, which contains at least one room for residential purposes, contains a greater or lesser number of such rooms than it did previously; or
(j) the building is used as a shop, where previously it was not.

For Part M Considerations the important ones are;

(c) the building is used as an hotel or a boarding house, where previously it was not;
(d) the building is used as an institution, where previously it was not;
(e) the building is used as a public building, where previously it was not;
(j) the building is used as a shop, where previously it was not.

If any of these apply to you then you have to comply with Part M Approved Documents, if not you only have to comply with part M on the work you do and providing you are not making the situation any worse than before you started don’t have to change the access route.

If this creates an issue you need to speak to your architect or solicitor to find out why you were not made aware of the issue.

If the above doesn’t apply you are in a slightly better circumstance

The important thing to remember is if you do anything it has to comply, if you don’t do anything it doesn’t have to comply.

Basically, it should not be worse than it was before you started

To sum up

CHANGE OR ALTER

Building regulations must be complied to, if it is not reasonable to make alterations that comply – DO NOT MAKE ANY ALTERATIONS

The problem you now have isn’t building regulations but the Equality Act (previously the DDA Disability Discrimination Act) which means you shouldn’t discriminate by having the building inaccessible.

Knowing the building regulations say you can’t build a ramp if it can’t comply you have to think about alternative entrances.

If no alterations made, provide an alternative entrance, this must comply to building regulations, if it is not reasonable to provide an alternative entrance that complies – DO NOT PROVIDE AN ALTERNATIVE ENTRANCE.

So, you can’t provide a compliant ramp, you can’t provide a compliant alternative entrance, what do you do to comply with the Equality Act?

If no alterations or alternative entrance provided – PROVIDE AN AUXILLIARY AID

Portable wheelchair ramps are classed as auxiliary aids

If not safe or reasonable to provide a portable ramp – DO NOT PROVIDE AUXILLARY AID

So what do you now do to comply with the Equality Act?

If no alterations or alternative entrance provided and no auxiliary aid provided – PROVIDE THE SERVICE IN AN ALTERNATIVE WAY

But how do you comply to the Equality Act if you can’t provide the service in an alternative way?

If not reasonable to provide alterations, alternative entrance, auxiliary aid or an alternative way of providing the service – DO NOTHING

THE GOLDEN RULE – IT IS BETTER TO DO NOTHING THAN TO DO SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T COMPLY AND ISN’T SAFE.

Do Building Regulations Apply to Portable Wheelchair Ramps or Temporary Wheelchair Ramps

Again, there is no straightforward answer to this.

As mentioned above, if it is a new build or a change of use where building regulations apply any work you do should comply with the building regulations, where this can become confusing is they only apply if the ramp becomes part of the structure of the building.

When it is not a new build or change of use and you are just intending to use a portable ramp and are not having to comply with any building regulations, provided the ramp is not fixed it technically has not become part of the building structure and therefore doesn’t always have to comply.

It’s basically the same as putting down a temporary board which you then remove once you have used it.

Where it gets more complicated is if you set the ramp up with the intention of leaving it set up for a period of time, as despite the fact it isn’t actually fitted some may argue that because it is left in position it has become part of the structure – you either need to take the risk of deciding whether this applies to you ar seek professional advise – sorry that doesn’t really mean asking a ramp supplier, you need paid for professional advice where you can obtain retribution if the advice you have paid to receive is incorrect.

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