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Lifts can help to provide access to storeys above or below the main entrance level of a building. If designed appropriately, lifts are the most convenient form of vertical access for disabled people.

Suitable access must be provided between a lift and the other parts of each floor which it serves.

Picture of a man in a wheelchair pressing the call button of a lift.

Types of lifts

Box-car lifts

A suitable box-car passenger lift should be provided to serve each level of a building to which the public and employees may require access.

A lift must be provided if the building:

  • Has more than two storeys and the nett* floor area of the second storey is more than 280 square metres
  • Has more than two storeys and the nett* floor area of any storey other than the main entrance storey is more than 200 square metres.

*The nett area excludes vertical circulation, sanitary accommodation and maintenance areas.

Where escalators are provided for access to other storeys, a lift is essential.

Picture of stairlift operating controls.

Design recommendations for lifts

  • Unobstructed landing space at least 1500mm x 1500mm
  • Door(s) provide 900mm clear opening width (minimum 800mm)
  • Car width of 2000mm (1100mm minimum)
  • Car length of at least 1400mm
  • Car height of at least 2300mm
  • Landing controls not less than 900mm and not more than 1200mm above floor level (centred at 1050mm)
  • Car controls not less than 900mm and not more than 1200mm above floor level (centred at 1050mm) on a side wall at least 400mm from front and back walls
  • Handrails on 3 sides at a height of 900mm to 1000mm
  • Approach/exit passageways and corridors wide enough for all lift users
  • Seating at each floor for use by ambulant disabled people
  • Underfoot tactile cue helpful outside lift entrance, eg. a securely fixed mat, flush with the floor
  • Clear, non-glare lighting and signing
  • Lift door(s) clearly indicated in a tonally contrasting colour with the surrounding wall
  • Automatic lift door with photo-eye or infra-red detection equipment (not door edge pressure system) to prevent closing on people entering or leaving the lift
  • Non-slip lift floor
  • Doors should remain open for 20 seconds
  • Lift controls must be easy to see, reach and use
  • Numbers and other information clearly visible in contrasting colours and with raised (tactile) characters/numerals
  • Buttons at least 30mm in width/height and slightly raised from surrounds (capable of being operated by palm of hand as well as fingers)
  • Visible and audible acknowledgment/announcement that a call has been requested, when a lift arrives, floor reached and audible announcement when doors opening/closing
  • Emergency controls at bottom of in-car control panel, no lower than 900mm
  • A clearly visible emergency two-way communication system inside the lift, no more than 1200mm from the lift floor
  • Avoid plain glass mirrors, which can confuse partially sighted people

Picture of a man in a whhelchair coming out of a lift.

Other lifting devices

Stair lifts

If an upper or lower storey contains a unique facility, eg. a small gallery, staff restroom or training room, but is not large enough to warrant box-car lift access, it should still be accessible to wheelchair users. In these circumstances a powered stair lift may provide reasonable access.

Existing wide stairways or ramps and staircases in certain historic properties which cannot otherwise be altered, may also be made accessible to wheelchair users by installing a stair lift.

Easy to operate push-button controls should be situated on the platform. There should be an emergency stop button and a security key switch to minimise abuse.

When not in use, the lift platform should be safely located or folded away. Folding versions should fold out automatically, rather than require manual operation.

Stair lift installations should be designed so that ambulant disabled people, as well as wheelchair users, can safely use them.

Picture of a lady in a wheelchair in a stairlift pressing the operating button.

Platform lifts

Where there exists a step or short flight of stairs and the provision of a ramp would not be practicable, the installation of a platform lift should be considered.

A platform lift may be used to travel over short changes in level, but complementary stairs must always be provided for use by able-bodied and ambulant disabled people.

Easy to operate push button controls should be situated on the platform. There should be an emergency stop button and a security key switch to minimise abuse. In case of power failure, the lift should be capable of manual operation.

When not in use, the lift platform should be safely located.

Picture of a man in a wheelchair in a platform lift pressing the operating button.


The above information was collected from the following sources:

Picture of an external stairlift positioned at the bottom of 5 steps.


In the past, access to public buildings has been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many disabled people and in particular wheelchair users. There are times in most peoples' lives when access is an obstacle to overcome. For example, people with arthritis or a heart condition, elderly people or somebody with a temporary disability. It is only recently that these issues have found their way on to government agendas.

One of the most recent, and influential pieces of government legislation concerning disabled access, is the UK Disability and Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), which aims to remove physical barriers and improve access for all to public buildings, something that became mandatory as from the 1st October 2004. Many buildings will have to be upgraded to meet the minimum accessibility laws.

If you would like further information on the DDA please click on the following link: DDA.

Current building regulations, such as Building Regulation Part 'M', have also helped to promote improvements in access for disabled people, stating ways in which accessibility can be tackled at the design and build stage of a public area.

If you would like further information on Building Regulation Part 'M' please click on the following link: Building Regulation Part 'M'.

Access To Work is a government scheme to help improve career opportunities for potential disabled employees who may require special equipment or alterations to existing equipment to suit particular work needs arising from disability.

It applies to full or part time, permanent or temporary work, meaning that employers must be able to provide sufficient levels of access to all existing and potential employees.

Access then can be viewed as a major factor in the designing of new buildings or the refurbishment of an existing building. It has become a fundamental part of public building interiors.

The introduction of BS 8300:2001 gathers all the relevant standards under one 'umbrella' to ensure that every aspect of disability is taken into account in building design.

If you would like further information on BS 8300:2001 please click on the following link: BS 8300:2001.

Picture of an enclosed vertical platform lift in a reception nest to flights of stairs.

Manufacturers of access lifts

Further information

Other information:

Picture acknowledgements