Since it’s introduction in 2004, Part M of the building regulations aims to make it easier for people with a disability to use and access buildings. You may have noticed that buildings now have ramps, wider doors, railings and more to allow easier access. Electrically, Part M is concerned with switches, sockets and other controls. The implementation of Part M will not only help people with disabilities, it can also aid the elderly, hard of hearing or visually impaired. Primarily, it’s focus is on commercial buildings with some slight differences between dwellings & non-dwellings.
Part M contrasting colours
Part M states that to aid visually impaired people, the colour of electrical accessories should contrast the wall so that they can be easily identified. On top of this, the actual switches on the faceplates should further contrast so they stand out. If you’re using all white switches and sockets on white or magnolia walls then you’re not compliant.
Rocker switch positioning
If you have a look at most standard double sockets, the two switches are often arranged next to each other in the middle of the socket. To people with limited dexterity or the visually impaired, it can be hard to differentiate between the two. Part M double sockets have the switches arranged at each side of the faceplate, aiding ease of use. These are known as ‘outboard rockers’.
Positioning on the wall
Part M outlines recommended outlet positions for items such as light switches, sockets, TV outlets and other controls such as thermostats. The exact end users should be taken into consideration for this, as wheelchair users would require lower light switch positions and possibly higher socket positions than other users.
Wide switchesRather than using normal sized light switches, to help visually impaired or users with limited dexterity, special wide switches can be fitted to make the job of turning lights on & off much easier.
Locating plug sockets
Some plug sockets are designed with a special V shape that allows the earth pin of the plug to be easily located & let down to the correct hole. If you’ve ever tried to plug an appliance in behind a piece of furniture you’ll know how difficult this can be – this is what visually impaired people go through on a daily basis. These sockets can also help people who suffer from hand tremors, or just for sockets that are going to be hidden behind wardrobes, racking, shelving or other large pieces of furniture that aren’t easily moveable.
All commercial or industrial buildings, with particular focus on public buildings and the healthcare sector.
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Find out more about Part M and your obligations by downloading the pdf documents from the Planning Portal here.