The quality of our homes has a significant influence on our health, happiness, confidence, social life, relationships with our families and general well-being.  For those with mobility problems, who may be more likely to spend a larger proportion of their time at home, it is essential that their home enables them to live as happily, safely, healthily and as independently as possible.

Standard wheelchair housing is primarily designed to aid independent living for people with physical disabilities and those who also need a wheelchair for day to day mobility and require the larger areas and circulation areas afforded by this accommodation type.

In developing wheelchair standard housing, Associations are encouraged to consider the following key design principles and aims:

  1. Generally, design that supports independent living, improves quality of life and contributes to wellbeing;
  2. A universal approach to design, which seeks to achieve homes that are inclusive for a wide range of wheelchair users, and which takes account of a variety of other disabilities where possible. (e.g. dexterity, cognitive function, and hearing or sight impairments);
  3. Flexible and adaptable design to help future-proof for changing needs of tenants (e.g. ageing or degenerative diseases), or re-lets over the life of the property;
  4. A default position of design for ‘assisted’ rather than ‘independent’ wheelchair users;
  5. The provision of optimum floor space that takes account of aspects such as carers, larger turning circles, equipment, storage and flexibility (e.g. a ‘loose-fit, long life’ approach);
  6. Consideration of a range of housing forms, including two storey wheelchair homes that can help dwellings integrate with the community and support appropriate density.

The basis of any design for wheelchair housing should normally be a universal solution that can be easily adapted to suit a wide range of users now and over the life of the property. However, where wheelchair dwellings are for named tenants, it is essential that their specific current and predicted future needs are identified and addressed at the outset via early and ongoing liaison with the Community Occupational Therapist.  Design for specific needs should ideally be integrated within an overall inclusive and flexible approach.

Specific Wheelchair Housing Design Standards are included in Annex ‘A’.

The TCI Area/Cost Bands applicable to self-contained wheelchair accommodation are noted in Table 4: Wheelchair Housing - TCI Area/Cost Bands Applicable.

Example generic wheelchair dwelling plans are included in Annex ‘A1.’ These examples are provided to help guide Housing Associations in developing their own designs by illustrating a range of aspects of the revised DfC Wheelchair Housing Design Standards. These are not intended as definitive 'approved' plans; Associations can adapt and refine the plans as necessary.


The Guidance above does not purport to be a definitive list of all aspects of wheelchair housing design. Reference should be made to the following publications for aspects not covered above and for additional information, including drawings:

  • Barker, P., Barrick, J. and Wilson, R. (1995) Building Sight: A Handbook of Building and Interior Design Solutions to Include the Needs of Visually Impaired People, London: Royal National Institute of the Blind
  • Barton, C. and Pullicino, L. (2014) Choosing central heating controls and saving energy, Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica). Available at the rica website 
  • BSI (2009) BS 8300:2009+A1:2010 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. Code of practice, 2nd edn., London: BSI.
  • Department of Finance & Personnel (2012) Technical booklet R- Access to and use of buildings. Available at the Building Control NI website
  • Greasley-Adams, C., Bowes, A., Dawson, A. and McCabe, L (2012) Good Practice in Design for Dementia and Sight Loss, University of Stirling. Available at University of Stirling website
  • Levitt Bernstein, (2016) Housing Standards Handbook, National Housing Federation
  • HM Government (2016) Approved document M - Access to and use of buildings, 2015 edition incorporating 2016 amendments, Newcastle upon Tyne: NBS. Available at the .gov website 
  • Irish Wheelchair Association (2014) Best Practice Access Guidelines, 3rd Edition, Dublin. Available at the Irish Wheelchair Association website 
  • Northern Ireland Housing Executive (2006) Wheelchair user housing study, Belfast: NIHE.
  • Northern Ireland Housing Executive (2014) Adaptations design communications toolkit: NIHE. Available at the NIHE website
  • RCOTS and Habinteg Housing Association (2018) Wheelchair Housing Design Guide, 3rd edition, RIBA Publishing, London.
  • (2015) Technical housing standards – nationally described space standard, DCLG. Available at the .gov website.
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