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If you are a building owner, an architect, or involved in the design, construction, or operation of commercial or public buildings, you may be wondering whether it is a legal requirement to provide wheelchair accessible toilets.
Dolphin Solutions has worked on thousands of commercial washroom projects, wherein we have supplied Doc M Packs and grab rails to our clients. Therefore, we are well aware of the accessible toilet regulations in the UK that must be adhered to during the design stage.
In this article, will provide an overview of the accessible toilet regulations in the UK and the legal obligations for providing wheelchair accessible toilets in commercial buildings. We will also explore where to find the accessible toilet requirements for the UK in Document M and what to do if you have not made provision for toilet access to an accessible washroom.
UK accessibility regulations
In the UK, the provision of wheelchair accessible toilets is governed by several laws and disabled toilet regulations, including:
Building Regulations 2010: Document Part M
In accordance with the Building Regulations, specifically Document Part M: Access to and Use of Buildings, the provision of wheelchair accessible toilets in commercial buildings in the UK is required. This part of the regulations outlines the requirements for accessible facilities, including accessible washrooms, in both new and existing non-domestic buildings.
Approved Document M, which incorporates the 2020 amendments, can be found on the UK Government’s website.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 mandates service providers, including owners and managers of commercial buildings, to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled individuals are not at a disadvantage when accessing their services. This entails ensuring the building is accessible to wheelchair users and complying with accessible toilet regulations in the UK.
British Standards BS8300-2:2018
The BS 8300-2:2018 standard provides guidance on designing buildings and facilities to make them accessible to persons with disabilities. It includes specific recommendations for the design of accessible toilets and is often referred to in Document Part M.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
These regulations require employers to provide adequate and accessible toilet facilities for their employees, including disabled employees.
These accessible toilet regulations in the UK work together to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to suitable and accessible toilet facilities in public spaces, workplaces, and other premises throughout the United Kingdom.
Are accessible toilets a legal requirement?
Yes, accessible toilet regulations in the UK specify that wheelchair accessible toilets in commercial and public buildings are required under the Building Regulations and the Equality Act 2010.
Document Part M of the UK Building Regulations provides guidance on the accessibility requirements for new non-domestic buildings and for extensions and alterations to existing non-domestic buildings. It includes specific provisions for wheelchair accessible toilets to be provided in commercial buildings.
In particular, Part M of the Building Regulations requires that wheelchair accessible toilets be provided in buildings that are open to the public, such as shops, restaurants, and other public spaces.
What does Document M say about wheelchair accessible toilets?
The specific clause in the accessible toilet regulations in the UK that requires wheelchair toilets to be provided in all commercial buildings is set out in Section 5 of Document Part M, which is titled “Sanitary accommodation”.
Point 5.7 states the provision of toilet accommodation will satisfy Requirement M1 or M3 if:
“At least one wheelchair-accessible unisex toilet is provided at each location in a building where sanitary facilities are provided for use by customers and visitors to a building, or by people working in the building;”
What are the legal requirements for an accessible toilet?
The exact disabled toilet requirements in the UK will depend on a number of factors, including the size and layout of the building and the nature of the services being provided.
However, the general principle is that service providers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure their premises are accessible to persons with disabilities. The guidance provided in Document Part M of the Building Regulations is an essential tool to help achieve this goal.
It is important to note that the requirements and accessible toilet regulations in the UK can be complex, and you should consult with a qualified building professional or building surveyor for guidance on the specific requirements of your building.
What to do if you have not made provision for a wheelchair toilet
If you have not made provision for a wheelchair-accessible toilet in your commercial building design, you should take steps to rectify the situation as soon as possible. Failure to provide adequate accessibility features, including wheelchair-accessible toilets, could result in legal action under the Equality Act 2010 and could also result in your design failing to comply with the accessible toilet regulations in the UK.
Review the design
The first step you should take is to review your design and assess where a wheelchair accessible toilet could be added without significant impact on the overall design. You should refer to the guidance provided in Approved Document M of the Building Regulations, which includes consulting with a building control body, to ensure that the wheelchair wc is designed to meet the minimum standards for accessibility and functionality.
If you are unable to retrofit a wheelchair accessible toilet into your design without significant impact, you should consider other options, such as relocating other facilities or reconfiguring the layout of the building to create space for the toilet. Alternatively, you may need to consider redesigning the building or seeking a variation to the planning permission to allow for the provision of a Doc M accessible WC.
Consult with a building control body
Applicants must effectively convey to the building control authority how their proposed method of addressing the accessibility requirements for the anticipated end-users of a building and its amenities adheres to the guidelines outlined in Part M of the Building Regulations.
According to Document Part M, it is recommended to obtain agreement from the building control authority regarding the adequate level of provision before initiating construction, as modifying it later can result in significant expenses and disruptions.
Hence, applicants are advised to interact with building control authorities as early as possible to recognise crucial concerns and potential risks and to deliberate the optimal approach to validate the accessibility plan for the construction work in progress.
It is important to note that obtaining authorisation from a building control authority does not automatically imply the fulfilment of obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
Ensuring Accessibility Compliance in Washroom Design
It is important to act quickly to ensure that your washroom design is compliant with the accessibility requirements set out in Document Part M of the Building Regulations, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, and the Equality Act 2010. You should also consult with professionals, such as your washroom supplier, building control or access consultants, to ensure that the design meets the needs of all users and complies with all the accessible toilet regulations in the UK.
Do you want to see what a non-compliant accessible toilet looks like? Click the link below to watch our video and learn how to avoid these errors.
What does a badly designed accessible washroom look like?