There are quite a few sources of guidelines and information for adapting holiday properties for disabled guests. The problems are knowing where to look and deciding what to do when the various bits of information and legislation on disabled access contradict each other, which they sometimes do.
Access for All
Access for all (rather than access for the disabled) is the new approach when it comes to building regulations and this approach is enshrined in Part M of the Building Regulations introduced in 2004. This means that, in theory, you can get guidance and advice from your local planning authority or the building regulation people (they usually share offices).
The Part M document lists all the guidelines and has some useful diagrams showing clearances for wheelchairs and the technical details for ramps and so on. It is available for £15 from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) or as a free download from the government’s planning portal: www.planningportal.gov.uk
One tricky element is that the guidelines, particularly those from building regulations, will rarely stipulate exactly what needs to be done but describe what would be compliant with the Act (the Disability Discrimination Act).
What you do to make your property compliant could be completely different to someone else and it’s down to the individual building inspector as to whether or not they believe that your modifications are compliant with the Act.
Still, building inspectors rarely want to cause problems and they prefer to be involved at an early stage so that you avoid doing work that has to be changed or undone.
Government Internet Portals
Another source of information is the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which took over the responsibilities of the now defunct Disability Rights Commission (DRC) on 1st October 2007. At the time of writing their website is not fully up and running and the DRC’s website is available in archive form but doesn’t have anything really helpful.
The government portal www.gov.uk has a lot of information on disability and access including another document that’s free to download, a guide to making access to goods and services easier for disabled customers. You can find this in the section on access to everyday services.
Look to the Associations
You are also likely to find help from the various bed and breakfast and holiday proprietors association. It will cost a little to join, and you need to be wary about taking their advice as gospel.
But they are likely to have a good idea of what’s going on and could perhaps put you in touch with other holiday property owners with similar properties who would discuss their modifications with you.