Photo showing contrast in floor surfaces for accessibility



The material and finish of flooring can assist or hinder user movement around buildings. The correct choice of flooring will not only help with physical manoeuvrability, but also assist those who rely on acoustic or visual sensory clues to help them navigate a space.

In general, new finishes should follow the existing building strategy and specification to provide an integrated and consistent environment. However, during regular routine maintenance and refurbishment, we should take every opportunity to make the building more accessible to all users.

Health Building Note 00-10 Part A: Flooring should be refereced for detailed information for flooring in health environments.

Suitable floor finishes that are firm, even, securely fixed and non-directional will help people’s ease of movement throughout the building. People with cognitive challenges may have balance issues which make them unsteady on their feet. The visually impaired and those with mobility challenges who use walking aids, wheelchairs or scooters will rely on an appropriate floor finish to assist independent movement throughout a building.

Recommended standards:

  • Avoid the use of deep pile carpets and consider solid flooring. People who use mobility aids such as a stick or a walking frames find it difficult to lift their feet and are more likely to trip on these type of surfaces.
  • Make sure the surface is firm by giving thought to the type of underlay and the height and density of carpet pile.
  • Avoid use of soft cushioned flooring in public areas as it can cause confusion for people with cognitive challenges or dementia and who need a firm surface underfoot.

Good slip resistance will reduce the likelihood of a person slipping by offering a firm footing and wheel grip. Regardless of whether the surface is dry or wet, the floor needs to remain slip resistant to prevent slips, trips and falls. Assessing the slip resistance of flooring

Recommended standards:

  • Avoid wear and tear by using durable and long-lasting floor materials. Damaged or worn flooring is more likely to cause trips and slips.
  • Avoid sudden changes in friction between two adjacent floor finishes as this can cause a person to stumble or fall.
  • Ensure appropriate slip rating measurements are considered and referenced against the manufacturer’s advice, particularly with wet floors.
  • Floor surfaces in entrance areas should be slip resistant in all weather conditions. Depending on the activity around the entrance, matting should be provided in the vicinity of external doors.
  • Where possible, shower flooring should be dished to avoid the use of shower trays as the tray can be an obstacle for people. Speak with the flooring manufacturer to determine the correct finish and slip rating for wet floors.

Avoid changes in floor levels as this makes it difficult for people with mobility issues to manoeuvre. Floors need to be flat and hazard free to ensure optimum access for all.

Recommended standards:

  • Use floor finishes to create a flat surface, without obvious texturing to allow smooth passage of wheelchairs, pushchairs and trolleys.
  • Ensure thresholds between different flooring materials are hazard free to prevent trip and falls. Where possible, they should be flush to the adjacent finishes so that do not constitute a trip hazard in themselves.
  • Adjacent flooring materials should have similar levels of slip resistance to prevent tripping when moving between them.
  • Lay floors flat. If this is unavoidable, then any resulting slopes should have a gradient of no more than 1:20. Any higher, and the area of flooring will be considered as a ramp and be designed in accordance with the relevant Building Regulations.
  • Identify changes in levels of slopes by using contrasting visuals with the adjacent flooring.
  • Avoid flooring such as deep-pile or coir matting (known as directional floor covering) as this directs the wheels of wheelchairs, trolleys, and pushchairs in the direction of the weave / pile, making it harder for the user to manoeuvre across.
  • Avoid the use of loose-laid mats as they are susceptible to moving across the floor, causing a person to slip. If additional mats are needed, they should be fixed to the floor along their edges.

Steps can be a challenging. While lifts are available in most building, there are those that cannot use them for a variety of reasons. Therefore, making steps safe and hazard free is critical for all users.

Recommended standards:

  • Consider using tactile warning surfaces at the top and bottom of internal steps to identify the risk of tripping.
  • Before deciding on a surface, prepare a risk assessment to explore all the potential risks of that surface.
  • If a tactile hazard warning surface cannot be used, an alternative option is to visually contrast the floor finish to highlight the change in level.

Visually contrasting the floor with other finishes and furniture helps people with visual difficulties to assess and navigate their environment safely . Contrast also help to identify features, obstacles and hazards such as a column or barrier.

Recommended standards:

  • Contrast the colours between floor and furniture to ensure users can identify various seating options and so help prevent falls.
  • Contrast floor finishes and wall finishes. Most people’s visual zone is below 1200mm and this contrast is essential for wayfinding.
  • To meet recommendations relating to colour contrast, it is important to consider the relative Light Reflectance Values of the adjacent surface colours. A difference in LRV of 30 points is considered a sufficient contrast.
  • Use of coloured skirting can help people with cognitive challenges or visual impairments tell the difference between walls and floors.
  • Do not continue contrasting floor borders across a door threshold as this may be perceived as an obstruction. At thresholds, match to the main floor colour.
  • Contrast the floor colour with that of the toilet seat. This assists with visibility of the sanitaryware and promotes independent access and dignity.
  • Avoid colours that may be confused with other things, particularly for those with cognitive challenges. Design for Dementia, For example, dementia patients may confuse a blue floor with water or a green floor with grass.

Try and keep floor finishes looking the same under different lighting conditions to minimise the detrimental effects of glare and strong light.

Recommended standards:

  • Avoid shiny and glossy surfaces as glare and reflection from the floor can affect vision or the perception of space.
  • Avoid shiny floors, which some might perceive as being wet. This can exacerbate a person’s fear of slipping.
  • Consider design and placement of both natural and artificial light when selecting flooring to cut down on glare and make sure floor surfaces are evenly lit. See the Lighting component for further information.

Varying floor finishes can help people navigate their environment by highlighting key areas. Floors can be a helpful way to mark out routes and point out areas for seating or other activities that take place in a large open space. A co-ordinated colour scheme that incorporates all finishes can be used to identify rooms, wards, and departments.

Recommended standards:

  • Consider colour coded floors which can help people identify different levels or a department or an area in a building.
  • Use of a coloured line incorporated into a floor finish can help people find their way e.g., from a hospital reception desk to a clinic.
  • Changes in the type of floor finish, texture, colour, and tone can be used to mark out different areas, such as an access route and seating located next to it.
  • Consider how carpet borders and highlighted areas can be used to define an area or room entrance.
  • See the Wayfinding component for further information.

Patterns and colour used on floors can help a person judge the size and distance of a space and what that space is used for.

Recommended standards:

A good acoustic environment will help people hear speech and other desirable sounds more clearly. This is especially beneficial for people with hearing difficulties, cognitive challenges and those with special needs. The acoustic qualities of floor finishes and surfaces can affect the level of background noise and the quality of sound within that space.

Recommended standards:

  • Use a resilient and shock-absorbing layer beneath the final floor covering layer to reduce the travel of sound to the floor level below.
  • Textile floor coverings reduces sound reverberation, leading to a more acoustically comfortable space. This must be balanced with overall clinical requirements.
  • Floor materials that make contrasting sounds can help people know when they are moving between different parts of the building. HBN 00-10 Part A: Flooring.
  • See Health Technical Memorandum 08-01: Acoustics for further information.
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