When and how to specify a Disabled access Lift

Wheelchair users make up around 2 percent of the UK population, numbering over 1 million in total. With this in mind, along with amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act in 2013, it has become imperative for building owners to provide universal access to everyone, regardless of physical ability.


Document M of the UK’s building regulations states that everyone should be granted ease of access into a building, regardless of their disability, age or gender. This applies to accessibility all around the building also, as well as providing sufficient toilet facilities.

Although the installation of disabled lifts is not strictly compulsory, failure to comply with the above ruling can be challenged in law under the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Established by the government in 2007 to help enforce document M, they are especially strict in the designing of new buildings. For example, physical barriers should not be in place that prevent disabled lifts from being built.

When planning for a disabled lift, there are numerous specifications to adhere to so wheelchair users can safely access a building without difficulty. These include:

  • Lifts should provide audio and visual confirmation when the floor has been reached.
  • Lifting platforms should travel between platforms, ideally below 0.15m/s
  • Wheelchair users should be able to reach and use the controls themselves
  • Lifting heights of over 3 metres require enclosure
  • In terms of size, minimum dimensions for unoccupied platforms are 80 x 125cm

Advice for Business Owners

Designers should take into consideration the above advice when planning the building layout. If there is viable space and opportunity for a disabled lift in your premises then one should be installed. This applies not only if you employ a disabled member of staff, but also if the company provides access to the public.

Lifts for wheelchairs will differ from one building to the next, depending on the specific area in question and type of lift required. They can range from foldable lifts, which can be carried around with you, to highly modernised machines such as the Gulliver Vertical Platform model. There is also a range of exterior lifts to consider for entrance steps.

As with all machinery, disabled lifts will require general maintenance, click here for more information, checks to comply with code of practice. The Health and Safety at Work Act means that you as the business owner should ensure lifts are safe to use all year round. Servicing should be carried out between two and four times per year on average.