Improving Mobility and Accessibility in Your Home

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Composite front door

For many people, accessibility and mobility are challenges. So when designing your door, what things need to be considered if you need some help with staying mobile?

It includes those who have requirements that are clearly defined. For example, those who use a wheelchair, and even those who are simply getting a little older and might need a bit more help to remain mobile. As the UK population continues to live longer, the later stages of life are becoming increasingly important. Currently, around 18% of the UK population is at least 65 years old, and by 2046 this will skyrocket to 25%.

Remodelling and re-thinking how our homes are designed in order to fit in with changing requirements as we continue to live longer are going to be critically important for everyone. Not only for ourselves, but for our friends and family who may already have these requirements.

Improving the Accessibility of Entrance Doors

Entrance door sympathetic design is key to assisting individuals who have restricted mobility to be able to lead independent lives.

There are many things that a great door design can do to help support people who need a bit more help in order to stay mobile and help them minimise their risk of injury and maintain their independence.

According to figures from the government, approximately one-third of individuals who are 65 years and over, and about half of people 80 years and older in the UK, fall once a year at least, which causes loss of confidence, injury, pain, and distress.

Adding a ramp, railing, or handrail, can reduce risk and improve accessibility.

Ease of operation and reliability are key as well. PVC-U doors and composite doors, such as those offered by KJM Group, are practically maintenance free and are not subject to the warping and twisting that can impact timber door operation.

A low threshold is the most important thing that needs to be considered. A standard door’s threshold (the bottom part of the frame that is stepped over) is usually around 70mm. It is set at that height in order to seal the door and improve its thermal efficiency.

However, at 70mm, that can be challenging for people who have limited mobility and can make it hard to bump the wheels of a wheelchair over them.

A low threshold will sit at about 12mm high, which will improve the access for wheelchair users significantly.

Wheelchair Access Doors

If you use a wheelchair, there are several other specific things that need to be considered. Including the Minimum Effective Clear Opening Width (ECW).

It is recommended that 900mm is the ideal ECW. However, in older properties that cannot always be achieved.

There are other practical considerations as well. In order for a standard wheelchair to be able to turn 360 degrees, there needs to be 1500mm x 1500mm of space available. Therefore, it is important to ensure there is a clutter-free and clear space inside the door, the hallway, for example.

Also, doors should open past 90 degrees so that wheelchair users are able to pass through without any hindrance. There should also be at least 300mm clear space between the wall and the door’s opening edge.

Improve accessibility by modifying windows

Good window design also can significantly impact mobility, quality of life, and independence for older people, as well as wheelchair users and individuals with restricted mobility.

That can include lowering the window height for wheelchair users or changing the window handle for individuals who might find it hard to grip standard handles.

In general, for wheelchair users, window sills should be sited no higher then 900-1200mm off of the floor. That is the maximum to provide wheelchair users with a good view outside.

Also, there is a broad range of closing and opening mechanisms that are available. They include powered systems and manual window winders that may be used for opening and closing windows when they are out of reach or the person doesn’t have enough dexterity for using a standard closing and opening system.