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Disabled people failed by BSI basin guidance

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At what level ought a wash basin be fixed to suit disabled people?

To inform themselves, architects are now able to consult BS8300, Design of Buildings, and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people, the long-awaited update of the BS5810 access code issued in 1979. For both wheelchair users and ambulant disabled people, its recommendation is that the rim of a basin should be between 720 and 740mm above floor level, or about 2ft 5in.

I am an ambulant disabled person with a severe physical disability. My wife, too, is disabled, with spinal problems that can cause acute pain when she has to reach down to a low level.

Recently we wanted to take a weekend away, so my wife phoned a hotel in the east of England. Yes, she was told, they had a special room for disabled people, and in the bathroom it had a low-level basin for the benefit of wheelchair users.

That would not suit us - so how about adjoining rooms which, without grab rails or other special gadgetry for the disabled, were accessible? Yes, they had normal-height basins.

Good, said my wife, we'll have one of those.

To be convenient, a wash basin would be higher than the normal 820mm; its rim would be at 950mm above floor, a level that would suit the generality of adult people and would be a great deal more convenient for ambulant disabled people than 720-740mm. The diagram below demonstrates how ill-suited a 720mm basin height is for tall men and average-height women.

The B/209/8 subcommittee which worked on the preparation of BS8300 had members who represented 38 different bodies. With the array of wisdom available to it, how was it that BSI arrived at 720-740mm for the height of wash basins for people with disabilities? By what processes, on whose advice and with the benefit of what research findings did it suppose it was sensible?

Since the height of wash basins is vital for ambulant disabled people, might BSI now acknowledge the 720-740mm recommendation was a lamentable error, one that as a matter of urgency must be corrected?

Selwyn Goldsmith, London SW11

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