Adapting your home for disability – Article 1 – Introduction


Disabilities are not limited to Mobility Issues alone!


This is the first in a series of articles we are planning about adapting your home for disability.  This first article will cover some of the basics, where you will find out about what is needed, what is available, and how an Architectural Designer (such as Clive Elsdon Building Design) can assist and a little on the financial element.

Later articles in the series will go into more detail about adaptations that are available.  The ones we have drafted already include floor finishes, access ramps and stairlifts among other topics.

We have started a new “Disability” category on our blogs so that you can easily search for articles in this series!  Keep looking, we will gradually add more!

Please comment and feel free to ask questions about the articles and about adaptations that are available.  Whilst we will always recommend that a health care professional such as an Occupational Therapist helps you choose which adaptations to suit your particular needs, in many cases we have a good idea of  the standard ones ourselves.

Initial Assessment

As Architectural Designers we usually get involved with adapting a home to suit a particular disability only after the domestic requirements have been subject to an initial assessment by someone like an Occupational Therapist (OT). This health care professional will have been sent out by a Hospital or by the Social Services to assess what is actually required, and if it goes beyond a few special gadgets it’s then that they will call in the Building Design Experts!  It is therefore often the OT, rather than the end user that will liaise with the Architectural Designer, advising them, or “briefing” as we call it, on what is necessary to meet the needs of the individual.

Some changes (fitting a grab rail for example) may be very easy, and quick, but if extensive changes (widening openings, altering kitchens etc.)  are needed these can take longer in both the design stage and the actual time it takes to carry out the work.

Where to Find Out what is Possible

There is a lot of help available, from Small Gadgets that assist with independence right up to major adaptations to the home. None of the major alterations are cheap, so it is important to get as much help and advice as possible before starting any work.

Much of this advise is available through Social Services, your Local Authority Housing or Environmental Health Departments, or in many cases through specialist organisations set up to support particular disabilities.

For the sake of this article, as it is about how an Architectural Designer can help with the process, we will have to assume that whatever adaptations are needed involve alterations of some form to the home. With that assumption, in relation the general disabilities such as mobility or impediments in hearing and sight, an Architectural Designer should also be able to provide good advice, especially if used in conjunction with a Health Care Professional such as the OT mentioned above.  Most would be willing to attend the first feasibility meeting free in their own area. Clive Elsdon Building Design offers this on any project within DL & DH Post Code Areas anyway!


If you’re planning to move, don’t overspend on work that will most likely be removed when you leave.  Make sure the people who are helping you decide what is needed know this.  A concrete ramp will last forever (almost) but be expensive to install, and expensive to remove.  A metal or timber ramp won’t last as long, but is easily removed and possibly could even move with you!

Conversely, if you know you want to stay in your house for a long time, it is worth spending that bit extra to both ensure that the facilities last a long time and to make sure they look good as well. A good Architectural Designer will try and make the adaptations look as good as possible.


Funding is available for adaption’s to a home in the form of a disabled facilities grant. This can be up to £25,000.00 per home for necessary adaptations. There are also sometimes low cost loans available.  Both of these are means tested though, so your income and savings are taken into account. You may be deemed able to afford the work yourself!

You can get more information by visiting the government’s web site at or by contacting your own Local Authority.


Some work, such as the installation of lifts between floors and ramps can be carried out at zero-rated VAT. This currently saves 20% of the cost compared to normal building work.  The HMRC website at should be able to help you out there.

We hope that you have found this Introductory article useful.  Our next article will be titled “Just Getting In!” and will cover access to your home from outside.

4 thoughts on “Adapting your home for disability – Article 1 – Introduction
  1. I hadn’t thought of a metal or wooden ramp as an alternative to concrete. Would a wooden handrail be a safe solution or is it better to go with metal do you think?

    • Gillian,

      There would be nothing worse than a handrail that gave way when it was needed most. Timber being suitable would depend on design and maintenance and possibly also the length of time the handrail is expected to last and be fit for purpose.

      Interestingly, timber is a warm material. That is, it feels warm to the touch (relatively) compared with other materials like bare metal. That makes it actually ideally suited to be the actual handrail as one of the recommendations is that it feels warm. It is also easily shaped, making it possible to produce quite cheaply, the ideal shape for a handrail. Where it falls down is longevity. Without the correct finishes and appropriate maintenance, it will deteriorate and weaken. This can cause both structural failure and other undesirable effects like splinters.

      I will be covering handrails and ramps in the next article titled, “Just Getting In”, which is currently being finalised. Please re-visit the site and feel free to read and comment on it when it is published later this week.

  2. The point that you make about ensuring that alterations can be easily removed is a good one. Am I right in thinking that a concrete ramp would be much easier for the builder to install than building a more complex wooden one?

    • John,

      There are pros and cons with both. A timber one would require more thought in design and construction, that is for sure, and would also require maintenance to make it last beyond the innitial period. A concrete ramp would require little looking after, and it is easier to construct. It will also provide a more stable support for handrails and guardings etc. On the down side, concrete will require heavier tools and more work to remove it, and is best left to the expersts when it comes to that point.

      When considering adaptations to a property, the most important thing is that the end result is fit for purpose. If that purpose includes removal within a year… perhaps ca oncrete ramp would not be the right chouce.

      Since writing this article, we have also published a further one which deals with ramps in more detail. If you type “disability” into the search bar on this site, you will see that article listed and can read about this subject in greater depth.

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