Physical Disability and the Environment

Physical Disability and the Environment

Types of Physical Disability

  1. Tetraplegia (Severe spinal injury may result in paralysis of all four limbs.)
  2. Paraplegia (Both legs are affected by spinal injury.)
  3. Hemiplegia (When a stroke interrupts the blood supply to one side of the brain, the other side of the body becomes paralysed.)
  4. Amputation (Accident or disease may result in amputation.)
  5. Alternatively movement (Limited in the hands and fingers, or other joints.)

Aids for Persons with Mobility Difficulties (PMDs)

  1. Artificial legs and arms
  2. Walking aids of various sorts
  3. Hoists (Persons with a diverse disability can be assisted to transfer between beds and wheelchairs by using hoists.)
  4. Wheelchairs (In addition to hand-propelled wheelchairs, there are power–driven models.)


  1. Wheelchair user cannot get through too narrow door, door width should not be at least 800mm.
  2. Door threshold is a barrier to entering, cannot higher than 20mm.
  3. A foldable metal hinged ramp or one section of floor can be raised to the level of the other, eliminating the step.


  1. Handle cannot be placed too far into the corner. The opening side of door must be away from the side wall or obstructive furniture at least 330mm.
  2. A concertina door/ a sliding door takes less space and is easy to operate.
  3. A lever door handle is the easiest to operate. A horizontal pull-handle is also helpful.

Toilet and Bathroom Facilities

  1. Handrails on side and back walls are helpful. A hinged handle can be folded up when not in use.
  2. A washbasin in which the wheelchair user can rinse his hands before returning to the wheelchair.
  3. Special taps for PwDs such as sensor type and lever type should be used.
  4. In a shower, a bench is useful. Also, rails are added for both wheelchair and ambulant PwDs.
  5. Shower bench should be sited where it is accessible by wheelchair user.
  6. A kerb is acceptable provided that wheelchair user can transfer to the bench. If the shower is used from a shower chair, the kerb must be omitted.

Requirements in Height

  1. For washbasins, there are conflicting requirements in heights for ambulant PwDs and wheelchair users. A compromise height is 800mm.
  2. Power socket and switch should be placed at height between 500mm to 1000mm.

Outdoor environment

  1. Steps are an obvious problem for the wheelchair user.
  2. The ideal width and gradient of ramp is to be 1:12 and 1200mm respectively. A long ramp must be interrupted by level landings as a single ramp should not be more than 10 metres long.
  3. A dropped kerb should be provided on a footpath or pavement to accommodate the change in level towards vehicular areas. Adequate visual and tactile warning should be provided.


  1. Stairs without a landing are exhausting.
  2. Tread and riser of staircases should not be less than 225mm and 175mm respectively.
  3. Step nosing with protruded edge may cause potential danger and shall be avoided. Chamfer-edged nosing is more convenient.


  1. Corridor must be wide enough to be accessible for a wheelchair user, or for someone on crutches. Width shall be at least 1050mm.
  2. Space at least 1500mmX1500mm shall be provided for manoeuvring wheelchair. Larger manoeuvring space is required foe powered wheelchair.
  3. A space not less than 1500mmX1500mm shall be provided within 3500mm of every dead end and corner for manoeuvring wheelchair.

Lift Car

  1. Doors must not be too narrow
  2. For more than 3 lifts in a building, access shall at least 1 lift having minimum internal car dimensions of:
  3. Doors should not close too quickly.

Other Provision for Persons with Mobility Difficulties (PMDs)

  1. Automatic Teller Machines for wheelchair user.
  2. Carparking space for PwDs.
  3. Handrail for PwDs.
  4. Computer aids for PwDs.
  5. Graphic, signs and etc…
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