LockedOut: Seventy-seven per cent of people with physical disabilities have poor or no access to public spaces according to Irish Wheelchair Association.

Irish Wheelchair Association calls for review of building regulations on wheelchair accessible housing, as it launches new guidelines for designing accessible environments.

The organisation surveyed almost 1,000 people for the latest edition of its ‘Best Practice Access Guidelines: Designing Accessible Environments’, which was launched today at a virtual conference to mark the charity’s 60th anniversary.

Irish Wheelchair Association found that:

  • 77% of people with physical disabilities have poor or no access to public spaces and amenities because of issues with pavements, parking, pedestrian crossings and more. 
  • 66% of people reported difficulty accessing public buildings, which include healthcare, retail and leisure facilities.
  • 68% of people experience inadequate toilets, lifts, emergency exits and parking machines in public spaces.
  • 63% said that they often faced poor or no accessible public parking at public buildings.
  • 73% said they often faced steps to the main entrance of public buildings.

Tony Cunningham, Director of Property, Housing and Access at Irish Wheelchair Association said:

“People with physical disabilities are effectively locked out of public spaces and buildings. With current building regulations taking an extremely narrow view of accessibility, simple day-to-day activities are made needlessly complicated.

Irish Wheelchair Association was founded sixty years ago by eight people who were wheelchair users. One of the single biggest issues facing people with physical disabilities has always been access to buildings and infrastructure. Our Access Guidelines set the standard for accessibility in Ireland across construction, housing, public amenities, retail, tourism, hospitality and sport. The latest edition is inspired by the experiences of Irish Wheelchair Association members, who continue to experience poor accessibility within their local communities that impose limitations on their daily lives. 

A central part of anyone’s independence is to have a home. Currently, there is no minimum standard for wheelchair accessible housing in Ireland, as part M of the building regulations provides for only for ‘visitable housing’ not housing that a person with a wheelchair could live in. Irish Wheelchair Association is calling for an urgent review of The Building Regulations (Part M Amendment) Regulations 2010.

We believe that the regulations should be reviewed to include wheelchair accessible housing design, with due regard to our access guidelines, so that the accessibility standard for new builds would be higher and ultimately bring much needed new stock of wheelchair accessible housing to the housing market.

Our Access Guidelines are a key to unlocking housing, public spaces and buildings for people with physical disabilities. We are urging those involved in planning, building and design to adopt them, so that all people with disabilities can live the life they choose.”

Irish Wheelchair Association’s ‘Best Practice Access Guidelines: Designing Accessible Environments’ is available to download here.