This section of the Great Outdoors – A guide for accessibility is applicable to the built environment within the great outdoors, including access to and within visitor/activity centres together with on-site parking provided at the visitor/activity centres and routes leading to and around these centres. The design guidance presented within this Section is taken directly from Irish Wheelchair Association Best Practice Access Guidelines 3, 2014 at:

The Building Regulations Part M Access and Use 2010 and Part B Fire Safety 2006 give guidance within their accompanying Technical Guidance Documents on minimum design requirements [24]. The Irish Wheelchair Association’s Best Practice Access Guidelines reference best practice in accessible design to ensure that all built environments that follow Irish Wheelchair Association's guidance are accessible to all people including people using powered wheelchairs and people requiring personal assistance.

Design guidance that is relevant to the requirements of people who have a sensory impairment is also given throughout these guidelines. Where additional or technical information is required in relation to the specific requirements of people who have a sensory impairment contact should be made with the following organisations: National Council for the Blind in Ireland (NCBI), Ireland’s national sight loss agency (, Vision Sports Ireland (, DeafHear ( and Deaf Sports Ireland (

This section of the guide includes summary information from Irish Wheelchair Association Best Practice Access Guidelines 3, 2014 on;

  • The External Environment and Building Approach
  • Access to and Circulation within a Building
  • Access to and the Use of Facilities within the Built Environment

7.1 The External Environment and Building Approach

Accessible Parking:

  • Locate accessible parking bays as close as possible to main entrance, maximum distance 25m.
  • A variation of accessible parking bays for cars, multi-purpose vehicles, and accessible buses must be provided.
  • Minimum of one accessible parking bay, then one accessible bay for every 15 parking bays provided. Of these accessible parking bays, one in four should be designed to accommodate large multi-purpose vehicles.
  • Accessible parking bays should be located on firm, non-slip level ground.
  • The surface of the accessible parking bay should have white markings on a blue background. The surrounding access zone should be hatched in yellow.
  • There should be dished kerbs or level approach routes leading from the accessible car park area.
  • Where kerbs are dished on a direct line of pedestrian travel, tactile paving should be installed. If a footpath/access route does not lead directly to a dished kerb then there is no need to install tactile paving in the dished area. If in doubt, please contact an NCBI Access Officer, who will advise.
  • Adequate lighting should be provided from the accessible car park area to the access route.
  • A standard accessible parking bay should be 4800mm x 6000mm, this includes a 1200mm wide access zone on both sides and to the rear.
  • An accessible parking bay for a multi-purpose vehicle should be 5400mm x 7800mm which includes a 3000mm access zone to one side and the rear.
  • Minimum height clearance of 2600mm should be maintained at entrances to an accessible car park.
  • Set down/pick up points should be positioned near the main entrance.
  • Upright signage located out of the circulation space indicating accessible parking bays, should be provided.
"Parking spaces for wheelchair users and accessible transport would be a bonus as well"

– Quote from National Online Survey 2017

Wheelchair accessible parking

Diagram 1: Accessible parking showing different size bays

Pavements, Crossings and Approach Routes

  • A 2000mm pavement/pathway will allow two wheelchair users to pass each other safely.
  • A minimum clear width of pavements, pathways or approach routes of 1500mm is acceptable when passing places are provided at intervals.
  • Pavements, pathways and approach routes should have a firm and level surface.
  • Provide appropriate seating at intervals along routes.
  • Ensure there are no items blocking the circulation routes.
  • Bollards, when used, should be a minimum of 1000mm in height, 250mm in width and should be 1200mm apart. Ensure that bollards, seating and other necessary articles installed beside circulation paths are rounded, not sharp-edged, in case of accidental collisions. Also ensure that they contrast in colour/tone with the background against which they are seen, from both directions and in all lighting conditions.
  • Tactile paving at crossings should be placed as follows: red blister-type for controlled crossings, laid in an L-shape with the shorter leg of the L in the dished area of the kerb, and the long leg of the L stretching back across the path to the boundary wall/grass/other. Use buff, yellow, black or grey reserved for blister paving for uncontrolled crossings – whichever colour provides the best contrast against the surrounding paving. Corduroy type paving is used to warn of steps or stairs, also in the most visible colour available, but not red. The red colour is reserved for controlled road crossings. It may be necessary to install guidance type tactile paving to enable people with impaired vision to cross wide open spaces safely and independently. Please consult with one of NCBI’s Access Officers, before installing tactile paving of any kind. Incorrect installation, or excessive use of tactile paving, can cause problems instead of solving them.

External Ramps

  • Gradients should be as shallow as possible. The preferred gradient should be 1:20 with the length of individual sections no more than 10m with a maximum rise of 500mm. Intermediate landings should be provided after each 10m slope.
  • Flights and landings should have a clear unobstructed minimum width of 1500mm, 1800mm width where a ramp is in frequent use.
  • Intermediate landings should have a minimum length of 1800mm.
  • A clear unobstructed turning circle of 1800mm diameter is required at the top and bottom of landings of a ramp.
  • Provide non-slip surface with 1:50 cross-fall to ensure drainage and 150mm high edge protection.
  • Provide a continuous handrail on both sides at a height between 900 -1000mm, extending 300mm beyond the ramp and terminating in a closed end.
  • Tactile paving is not required for a ramp as this is properly used to indicate the start and end of a flight of steps or stairs.
External steps and ramp

External Steps

Steps should be provided in conjunction with a ramp.

Avoid single steps.

  • A 1500mm stairway width is recommended, a central handrail should be provided when the width of stairs exceeds 2000mm.
  • Tapered treads and open risers should be avoided, risers to be between 150mm – 180mm and goings between 300mm – 450mm.
  • Outer edges of all steps in each flight must provide a permanent visual contrast with the rest of the steps known as “step edge marking”. This marking should be a minimum of 50mm in depth and should run along the full width of the step edge, on both the tread and the riser, to improve the visibility of the individual steps.
  • Level landings with at least 1500mm length, free from any door swing, should be provided at the top and bottom of each flight of steps.
  • Provide a continuous handrail on both sides at a height between 900 -1000mm, extending 300mm beyond the steps and continuing all the way down to the ground, or if that would cause a problem, turning back in to finish at the wall. Protruding handrail ends are hazardous for people with impaired vision, as a cane can swing underneath them, and then the person can walk into them, causing a painful collision at stomach or chest height. Handrails should be matte finished, not shiny, and should contrast with the background against which they will be seen.
  • Provide corduroy “Hazard Warning” type tactile paving at the top and bottom of stairs, running across the full width of the steps, leaving a gap of 400mm between the beginning of the tactile paving surface and the edge of the first and last steps. If the stairs are in the direct line of pedestrian travel, hazard warning paving should be laid to a depth of 800mm, but if people must make a conscious turn to find the stairs, the tactile paving need only be laid to a depth of 400mm.
  • Lighting for steps should be provided in such a way that the lights do not shine directly into the eyes of people who are either looking down to see the steps or looking at the side walls to find a handrail. Lights for stairs should provide non-glare minimum illumination of 200 lux.

Diagram 2: Ramps and steps

For more detailed guidance on the external environment and building approach please see Chapter 4 Irish Wheelchair Association Best Practice Access Guidelines 3, at:

7.2 Access to and Circulation within a Building


  • Main entrances should be easily identifiable and well signposted. Revolving doors are not suitable.
  • Automated door systems are generally recommended for ease of use rather than manually operated doors. Entrance devices, e.g. push pads and swipe cards, for automatic doors, should be located 900-1050mm from floor level.
  • Provide 1800mm x 1800mm level manoeuvring space outside the main entrance, with weather protection. Lighting level 150 lux.
  • Entrance threshold should be level. Door saddles lips or raised thresholds are not acceptable.
  • Minimum clear door width 1000mm for main entrance. Clear door width 900mm for all other doors.
  • Provide 500mm clear space on leading edge of single leaf door.
  • Heavy door springs are not recommended. Opening force of the door should be no greater than 20 newtons.
  • Vision panels should extend between 500-1500mm. Door handles between 900-1000mm from floor level.
  • Door handle/door lock should be easy to use and manipulated by all including someone with restricted hand movement/or limited strength.
  • Doors and frames should be clearly identified by colour and tonal contrast from the adjacent walls.
  • Any single pane fully glazed door leaf or fixed panel should have a permanent marking as a means of identifying the glass at heights of 850-1000mm and 1400-1600mm. These permanent markings must visually contrast with the background in all lighting conditions. Small “smoked glass” circles or squares, although commonly used, are not suitable, as most people with impaired vision can’t see them.
"I am the mother of a 2 year old boy and I am wheelchair user, being able to do activities with him is so important to both of us. Consultation is so important with all users with parents who are wheelchair users and with parents of children who have a disability"

– Quote from National Online Survey 2017

Diagram 3: Entrance door with single vision panel

Wheelchair accessible entrance
"Trying to push through heavy doors is so difficult and annoying. I always have to ask to have the door opened for me as it is so heavy to push open"

– Quote from National Online Survey 2017

Diagram 4: Internal lobbies with doors opening in the same direction


  • Entrance foyers/lobbies should be designed in such a way that there is sufficient space to enable all people, including a wheelchair user and an assistant, to move clear of one door before using the next door.
  • Overall size of lobby should be determined by location and opening direction of the lobby doors.
  • Lobby size should allow 1700 x 900mm clear space within a lobby free from any door swing.
  • Door widths to be minimum 900mm, with 500mm clear space on leading edge side of the door.
  • Recommended lobby width is 1800mm. Minimum acceptable width is 1500mm.

Diagram 5: Internal lobbies with doors opening in the opposite direction

Reception Areas/Fixtures & Fittings

  • The reception area should be easily identifiable from the main building entrance, with a direct and unobstructed approach.
  • Provide 1800mm diameter turning space on both sides of Reception desk.
  • Provide 50:50 dual height desk at Reception. The lower section of the reception desk to be 760mm high with 700mm high clear space underneath, the higher section 1050mm.
  • The lower section of the reception desk should be kept free from any obstruction or clutter which would prevent face-to-face interaction.
  • Reception desk and other furniture to be round-edged to prevent injury in the event of accidental collision.
  • Lighting levels to be evenly dispersed with minimum recommended illumination of 150 lux. Lighting level 250mm lux at Reception desktop.
  • Install an Induction Loop System along with signage to indicate its presence to people who have a hearing loss. Have a portable induction loop system available where meeting facilities are provided.
  • Seating at Reception should allow spaces for wheelchair users to position alongside fixed seating.
  • Information should be available in alternative formats including large print, audio, accessible website and on request Braille.
  • Light switches and commonly used sockets to be positioned between 750-1000mm. Shared sockets to have on/off switch to the outside.


  • Recommended corridor width is 1800mm. Wall mounted objects should not cause an obstruction. Lighting level 150 lux.
  • Any corridors less than 1800mm in width should have a turning space of 1800mm x 1800mm at the end of the corridor and at corridor junctions. The turning space should be repeated at 25 metres as the length of the corridor continues.
  • Doors opening into a corridor should be recessed.
  • Design and colour scheme should aid wayfinding.
  • Magnetic catches should be used to hold the doors in the open position to facilitate accessibility.

Internal Signage

  • Signage should be easily detectable, consistent and readily understandable.
  • Suspended signs to allow minimum 2300mm height clearance.
  • Close distance signs should be mounted with centreline at 1400mm height from floor level. Safety instruction signage to be duplicated at height between 1000-1100mm and between 1600-1700mm. A matt finish should be used.
  • Use san serif typefaces, white lettering on dark background, recognised symbols and icons.
  • Suitable letter height is a minimum of 150mm for long distance signs, 50-100mm for medium distance signs, and 15-25mm for short distance signs.
  • Signage which can be reached to read by touch should have tactile lettering, as well as Braille. For details on how to provide accessible signage, [25] please see Appendix 4

For further information on signage please refer to Section 3.


  • Ideally, new buildings should have fire protected lifts that can be used for emergency evacuation.
  • Lift car to preferably accommodate 1800mm turning diameter. For smaller buildings, 2000mm depth x 1400mm width is acceptable.
  • Lift door clear opening width should be 900mm. Door should stay open for at least 8 seconds.
  • Provide 1800mm x 1800mm clear space in front of lift on each landing. Lift call button height should be between 900-1100mm from floor level and should be detectable by sight and touch.
  • In the lift car, centre-line of lift control panel to be at 1000mm height. Lighting level 150 lux. Braille and tactile numbers & letters should be provided beside each control button, which should also be detectable by sight and touch.
  • Provide audio and visual notification of the floor level and notice of door opening/closing.

Diagram 6: Passenger Lift

For more detailed guidance on Access to and Circulation within a Building please see chapter 5 Irish Wheelchair Association Best Practice Access Guidelines 3 at:

7.3 Access to and the Use of Facilities within the Built Environment

Interior Design

  • Create colour, tonal and textural contrast between surfaces and entry points – flooring, doorways, light switches etc.
  • Avoid shiny surfaces to minimise glare and reflection. Surfaces to preferably have a matte finish. Create good lighting levels and avoid shadows.
  • Provide permanent clearly visible markings on any glazed doors as a means of identifying the glass at two heights i.e. between 850-1000mm and between 1400-1600mm.
  • Floor surfaces should be non-slip. Avoid deep pile carpet. No door saddles or upstands at thresholds.
  • Window sills to be no higher than 850mm. No transoms between 850-1200mm. Window opening mechanisms to be located between 750-1000mm.
  • Seek advice on acoustics when choosing floor covering, wall panelling and soft furnishings.

Public Service Facilities

  • ATM/Public Access Terminal controls to be located between 900 – 1200mm with an 1800x1800mm clear space in front.
  • Accessible public telephone controls to be located between 750mm – 1000mm. Ensure presence of induction coupler and text display.
  • Storage lockers to be provided within a 750 – 1250mm height range with a 900x1400mm clear area in front.
  • Worktops within a communal kitchen to be 850mm high as a compromise height for both people standing and for people seated in a wheelchair. Provide 700mm clear knee space beneath the sink, the hob and an area of the work top. Induction hob is recommended. Provide accessible storage options.

Diagram 7: Shared Use Accessible Kitchen

Restaurant/Coffee Shops

  • Provide a choice of wheelchair accessible seating on all levels and vantage points.
  • A table height of 760-780mm is suitable for a wheelchair user with knee clearance of 700mm beneath the table. Choose a table style that affords accessibility. A table with a centrally located pod style support or a square/rectangular table with legs located at each corner is preferred.
  • Maintain a clear access route of 900mm width throughout the restaurant with clear space for a wheelchair user to turn at either end of the route.
  • Provide access to a self-service “tray slide” counter at 850mm in height from ground level with 700mm knee clearance. Keep the tray slide area free from display products.
  • Maintain a 1200mm width queuing line throughout the self service area/s.
  • Crockery, cutlery, and goods for sale at counter areas should be displayed at dual heights in order to facilitate both persons standing and those using a wheelchair.
Coffee Shop Access Ramp

7.4 Public Toilet/WC Provision

When considering provision of a WC/Toilet, it is imperative to consider access to, size, layout and fixtures and fittings. It is important to understand that some people with disabilities have different levels of ability. While some people can use an adpated WC independently, others require assistance.

Public Toilet/WC Accessible Independent Use Provision

  • In each male and female WC block, provide at least one ambulant WC cubicle, size 1500x900mm.
  • In male and female WC blocks with four or more cubicles provide at least one enlarged WC cubicle size, 1500x1200mm.
  • In the male WC block, provide a low urinal at 380mm height with clear space in front and grab rails on the wall.
  • Provide at least one unisex accessible WC, size 1800x2500mm with door opening out. 1800 x 2800mm if the door opens inwards.

Public Toilet/WC Accessible Assisted Use Provision

  • In large public facilities, provide at least one Changing Places WC [26] with hoist and adult changing bench. For guidance see:
  • Alternatively, consider provision of a Mobiloo vehicle [27] or modular WC facility suitable within the outdoor environment
"Due to non-existence of changing facilities we can't bring our son anywhere further than half an hour away from home and that means his twin brother loses out too"

– Quote from National Online Survey 2017

WC Fixtures and Fittings

  • Toilet seat height between 460-480mm with 900mm clear transfer space beside the toilet bowl. Spatula-shaped flush handle on the transfer side of the WC bowl.
  • Wash hand basin height 800mm. Tiny finger rinse basin type is not recommended. Provide instead a small basin with internal basin size of 400mm in length and 300mm in depth with no surplus area on the basin surround. Basin to be 250mm from the leading edge of the WC bowl. Provide sensor operated or level type mixer tap.
  • Anti-slip flooring – Grading R11 (DIN) recommended.
  • Install mirror at least 400mm wide, extending between 600-1800mm height range. Provide dual height clothes hooks.
  • Emergency alarm system to be installed and connected to the security desk or information point.

Diagram 8: Ambulant WC cubicle

Diagram 9: Enlarged Ambulant WC cubicle

Diagram 10: Unisex Accessible WC

Diagram 11: Urinal

Changing Places WC

Standard accessible WCs do not meet the needs of all people with a disability as some people require extra facilities and personal assistance. Changing Places WCs are different to standard accessible WCs in that they provide more space and extra equipment for people with disabilities and their assistants. Changing Places WCs are provided in addition to the standard accessible WCs. Changing Places WCs should include among other things the following:

  • Centrally located toilet with space both sides for transfers/carers
  • Adequate place for a wheelchair user and at least two carers (min. 12m² floor area)
  • A height-adjustable adult size changing bench
  • Wash-hand basin (preferably height-adjustable)
  • A full room coverage ceiling track hoist system
  • Shower (optional)

Changing Places WC facilities are available in a growing number of locations in Ireland including Aras an Uachtaráin, Dublin Airport, Trinity College Dublin, Cabinteely Park Dublin, the National Gallery Dublin, Irish National Heritage Park, Ferrycarraig, Wexford, Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission (IHREC), IKEA Ballymun and the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick. Changing Places WC facilities need to meet the correct design standard to ensure that they meet the needs and expectations of the people who use them. Further details on Changing Places design criteria may be found on the following link:

Changing Places WC facility

Modular Changing Places WC

Modular Changing Places

A pre-fabricated Changing Places unit may be an appropriate solution particularly for outdoor environments such as beaches or where an existing building does not have sufficient floor space for a Changing Places WC installation. Modular changing places contain the recommended 12m² of internal floor space and all of the required equipment that is found in a Changing Places WC facility such as;

  • Height adjustable adult sized changing bench
  • Ceiling track hoist
  • Toilet bowl with grab rails on both sides
  • Wash hand basin

Aesthetics can be tailored both inside and out. The external shell can be clad in materials to complement the existing building or environment. The unit comes in a wide range of internal colours and finishes. Further details on the modular Changing Places units may be found on the following link:

Modular Changing Places WC unit

Details for the Irish provider are as follows:

"Please make changing facilities and toilets larger as most are just the bare minimum size, so it is hard to move a wheelchair and have assistants in at the same time"

– Quote from National Online Survey 2017

Mobiloo WC

A Mobiloo [28] vehicle may be an alternative solution to providing a Changing Places WC facility in an outdoor location particularly on a short term basis. A Mobiloo contains all of the equipment that is found in a Changing Places WC facility such as:

  • Height adjustable adult sized changing bench
  • Ceiling track hoist
  • Toilet bowl with grab rails on both sides
  • Wash hand basin

A driver/attendant delivers and remains with the Mobiloo unit during operation to ensure it is kept clean, available and hygienic and to ensure that carers are comfortable with the equipment. Mobiloo makes an event or venue accessible to many people with disabilities who would otherwise be unable to attend simply because of a lack of adequate toilet and changing facilities. Mobiloo is available for rental throughout Ireland and the UK for outdoor events/locations such as concerts, beaches, fun days out, and many other outdoor events. Further details on Mobiloo may be found on the following link: For more detailed guidance on 'Access to and the Use of Facilities' within the Built Environment please see chapter 6 Irish Wheelchair Association Best Practice Access Guidelines 3 at:

25 NCBI accessible signage see Appendix 4

26 See Changing Places WC for a full description