Observing the people closest to me…

As part of my primary research, I used my family to help me gather more research on disability and design by taking them out to a public place to see how they would use the space, whether it be going out for a meal or simply shopping.

I am so passionate about designing for disability and when you have family members that struggle daily due to poorly designed buildings, everything becomes more apparent and obvious.

It is okay for a company or shop to say that their buildings are ‘accessible‘, but when I look closer at the finer details it becomes apparent that there are always unnecessary limitations.

For this exercise, I took my grandparents and partners parents out on separate occasions to different surroundings, to see how someone with a disability would interact and use an interior space, I also took observations of the space around them and how accessible the interior was. On top of this, I asked my subjects to give me a piece of advice that they could pass on to someone living with a disability.


Grandma S & Grandpa T

Grandma Sandra suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis in her arms and legs which has caused mobility issues. Alongside this, she became a recent amputee of the lower left leg. Sandra now has a prosthetic leg with which she uses crutches and wheelchair until she is strong enough to walk on two legs independently.

On our trip out we went to a local carvery pub (which was yummy!). There we had to enter through the rear entrance as the front is stepped. The access doors were only just wide enough to squeeze a wheelchair through. I also noticed that there wasn’t a lowered area of the bar that my grandma could go to, to order, and when she did the bar staff couldn’t see her and spoke right over her.

Grandma is a huge football fan, so to help her own visibility when she goes to matches, grandma attached flashing lights to her wheels. Before this, she noticed that people would cut straight in front of her and not notice that she was in a chair, but once they were on she received positive comments. When I took her out she received comments like, “Wow they’re cool!” and “You won’t get lost with those on!” 

Advice –  “Keep your spirits up, there is a life after amputation.” ….. “Never be afraid to ask or receive help.” (Almond. S. 2018)

Grandma F

Due to her age, Grandma Flo’s mobility is slowly decreasing, making it harder for her to go out on her own. We bought her this Rollator and it was the best thing for her! Not only did it give her the confidence she needed to go out but the support too. When I took Grandma out to observe her, we went to the Trafford Centre – somewhere busy. At the restaurant the staff were very accommodating of grandmas rollator and cleared a space for her to put it next to us, however, we were right at the front of the entrance, but we didn’t mind.

Advice – “Get yourself a Rollator!” … “There might not be physical signs, but my disability is mobility.” … “Try not to feel pressured.” … “Don’t let it get you down.” … “Don’t be afraid to ask for or receive help.” … “You’ll have dull days, but you learn to work with them.” (Milenkovic. F. 2018)


Martin has Neuro Sarcoidosis which can affect any part the nervous system and in worse cases can leave you with a permanent disability and in an unfortunate case, this has happened to Martin.

Martin uses a motorised wheelchair as his means of transport, due to it being a motorised chair it is easier for him to get around because of the permanent state. When I took my partners parents out to observe, a few issues arose. Firstly we were only offered the table right next to the entrance – but it was way too cold to sit there, another issue was space inbetween tables – furniture had to be moved. But on the other hand, the restaurant was accommodating in other ways; there was a lowered bar area, the bar area floor was clear and had enough unobstructed space to turn, the carvery server was an acceptable height but could have been a touch lower.

Advice – “Listen to and take advice from specialists.” … “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” … “Plan long-term.” … “Challenge as much as you can.” … “Look at motorbility.” … “Educating others on your disability.” (Rowley. M. 2018)


Understanding Wheelchair Metrics

Wheelchair metrics are something that needs to be understood when researching into such a broad topic. For me as an Interior Designer, it is crucial that I know the heights and widths needed to accommodate a wheelchair passing comfortably through an area when it comes to planning out an interior. After reading through regulations and measurements, I have hand-drawn these to help myself when it comes to designing an accessible interior. I have written the scale measurement next to each drawing as a guidance for size.

There are standard disability metric systems when working on an interior space, I have drawn these from the Portsmouth City Council – ‘Design guide for wheelchair accessible housing’ (2006) and Building Regulations Part M (2010) Category 3 – ‘Wheelchair user dwellings’ :                                                                                                                                  Turning Circle – 1500mm                                                                                                                      Door Widths – 850mm – 900mm                                                                                                              Plug Heights –  450mm from floor                                                                                                            Light Switches – 1200mm from floor

Handrawn metrics. Milenkovic. A (2018)

I understand that I have drawn an example of a toilet cubicle that may not have the turning circle circumference in it, but it is accessible for those who transfer off and on the toilet, and the door swings outwards.

Understanding Regulations

Why do we have building regulations? – Building Regulations are put in place to ensure that buildings are designed and built safely in accordance with Building Regulations and Building Legislation, which are developed and approved by the Government and Parliament.

Over the past week, I have been researching into wheelchair accessibility and mobility. The reason for this section of research is for me to better my understanding of the everyday problems a person with a disability may experience. To do this I must look at building regulations, measurements, observations and studies of how an interior space is used, by a disabled user in residential and commercial buildings.

Residential – ‘Designed for people to live in’ – Oxford Dictionary (2018)

Commercial – ‘Making or intended to make a profit’ – Oxford Dictionary (2018)

Before reading the regulation booklets, I already knew a considerable amount of information on the space and dimensions that are needed for wheelchair accessibility. My reason for choosing the following three regulation booklets are they are all pitching the same information about regulations but each poses a different area of concern, from residential to commercial.

For example, the Portsmouth City Council focuses on housing accessibility for wheelchair users; including comfortable measurements that allow a wheelchair user to move around their house adequately.


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‘Design guide for wheelchair accessible housing’ – Portsmouth City Council (2006)


This HM Government Building Regulations 2010, Part M, is a government-approved document that goes into detail about dwellings.

Dwelling: A house, flat or other places of residence – Oxford Dictionary (2018)

Residential accommodation can be adapted to the needs of the user, so a document like this will clearly inform those that may need to make changes to help themselves to live an easier life from the comfort of their own home.

Whereas commercial building design regulations will have been thoroughly thought through and set in the plan before the erection of the building. It is a lot harder to modify a commercial building once it has been completed and furnished due to major works. But those living with a disability will benefit these changes in order to help them live comfortably.

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Building Regulations – Dwellings Part M. 2010 (2015 Edition)


The last regulations booklet I have read is the Disability Access Standards from the University of Edinburgh. The main focus of this set of regulations is commercial design. These kinds of regulations should be followed in a public space to allow easy accessibility and mobility for individuals with a disability.

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Disability Access Standards – University of Edinburgh (Janurary 2015)

These ‘Disability Access Standards’  have helped me in understanding how different commercial and residential spaces need to be from each other in order to accommodate all kinds of people. It gives a clear divide of what dimensions are needed in a public space and a residential space.



Dwelling definition – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dwelling                         Residential definition – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/residential                     Commercial definition – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/commercial

Disability Inspiration…


Ability Not Disability
Disability Discrimination in the Workplace. (Abrahams. G (June 2017)   —- This image caught my eye due to the boldness, although it is a very plain image, to me it gives a strong message that all people, disabled more so, should be given the ability to do or achieve anything they want to and not be held back by their disability.


Why you shouldn’t trust a disability by its visibility. Chamberlain. L (2016) — This image speaks a thousand words. There are a lot of disabilities that aren’t visible that people are unaware of unless you speak to the user themselves. This shouldn’t stop anyone of any ability from doing anything they want.


Princesses with disabilities redefine ‘Standards of Beauty’. (Dicker. R (2014) — This image could be so inspiring for a young child living with a disability. Princesses play a big part in a child’s imagination from an early age and an image like this will help them to overcome their appearance just because a princess is in the same situation as them.



Books… Part 2


Whilst in the library I chose to have a look for books that I could find relevant to my topic of disability. Here I came across four, I hadn’t looked at them before taking them back to my desk so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into! However, I did find a couple of interesting pointers (not in every book) that caught me when reading.

Disability books
Books gathered as part of secondary research – Milenkovic. A (2018)

— The book that interested me the most was ‘Constructions of Disability’ by Claire Tregaskis (2004), as she speaks about her own personal experiences as a disabled person, and how life has been and the difficulties she faced growing up with a disability. Claire Tregaskis’s focused on many areas within the book such as being a disabled person herself, disability stereotyping, her research about disabilities, working as a disabled person and many other things.  However, her main aim for writing this book was to explore the social interactions between disables and non-disabled people.

— In the book ‘Understanding Disability Policy’ by Alan Roulstone and Simone Prideaux (2012), both authors discuss the importance of and contextualise the disability policy.  I didn’t manage to read the whole of this book, more of a skim through but I did come across some interesting points within that could help me through my researching process.

— ‘Understanding Disability’ by Peggy Quinn (1998) was the next book I looked at. Due to this book being published in 1998, unfortunately for me, it wasn’t up-to-date enough. Despite this, Peggy Quinn does cover disability in many ways which I think is great and she does discuss the attitudes of people towards disability in the 20th Century; this could be a good starting point for me so I can see how disabilities and peoples perceptions of disabilities have changed as we are now in the 21st Century.

— The last book I looked at; ‘Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments’ by John Swaine, Sally French, Colin Barnes and Carol Thomas (2004), was quite overwhelming with the amount of different information coming from various authors. It does cover many areas though such as perspectives of disability and impairments, peoples own vision of themselves, how a disability controls your life, help and support and lastly about society.