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PHYSICAL DISABILITY


Welcome Tweaks


While many modern care facilities are designed to provide easy access for all, older buildings often need adaptations and adjustments to overcome obstacles. Jean Hewitt, Director of the Centre for Accessible Environments, writes about simple, low-cost adjustments that staff can introduce to allow all residents their independence.


Level Changes Older buildings often have raised thresholds and small level changes even on a single floor level. Threshold ramps are readily available and require no fixing and even chamfer infill can be purchased in robust materials and popped in place without any fitting needed. Both of these options are ideal for very occasional access to an area or where a permanent solution is awaited.


A larger portable ramp may be needed in some cases, but it will need to be manned when in place as it can easily present a trip hazard to others, particularly to people with visual impairments. The gradient is critical, especially if it is to be used independently, and must never


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be steeper than 1:12 otherwise a wheelchair user could tip – if it has to be steeper because of space constraints, it is safer in this situation to provide assistance and always take a wheelchair down backwards.


Small level changes or uneven floors are always best highlighted. This can be done simply by adding hazard tape to a raised threshold, or having a strip of carpet colour change on floors with any gradient.


Step edges should always be clearly defined and this is proven to be a significant safety issue for all potential users. Although a proprietary fixed nosing is recommended in the longer term, paint or a suitable grip tape applied to the step nosing is a quick solution


that will immediately improve visibility for everyone.


Doors The biggest barrier to independence can be a heavy door.


If there is self-


closing device fitted, is it necessary or can you remove it? A self-closer on a toilet door might seem important for modesty, but it takes away independence for many users if this results in a heavy door opening force. Doors should be easy to open, less than 20N if possible. You can buy a device to measure the opening force for around £25.00 and make this part of the maintenance routine checks.


If the door is a fire door, it will usually have a self-closing device for fire compartmentation; these closers cannot be removed but can


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