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Part M considerations

Andrew Pegrum, technical manager at Deta Electrical, discusses the requirements of the Part M Building Regulation and offers advice on specifying wiring accessories to meet them With an estimated 8.6 million people in the UK registered as disabled, the of Part M building regulations were introduced to ensure that their quality of life is drastically improved.

Part M considerations

Previous versions of the Part M regulation set down certain minimum standards for disabled access for items such as steps, ramps, door widths and accessible toilets. However, they but did not consider some of the other issues that disabled people face.

The revised version of Part M reflects, to a much greater extent, the notion that people's abilities are not identical and they signal a move away from the narrow aim of making buildings accessible to, and usable by, disabled people towards an aim to make buildings accessible to, and usable by, everyone - including people with other disabilities such as those who are hard of hearing or visually impaired.

As a wiring accessories manufacturer, Deta Electrical has had to consider the areas of this regulation that affect the installer. These relate to the positioning, visibility and safety of the electrical products.

Part M mentions switches, outlets and controls and how consideration should be given to their position in relation to doorways, floors, corners of rooms, ease of use and visibility. Interpretation of the requirements and definitions within Part M can be subjective and how they are met will be down to the specifier’s understanding (i.e an open plan office will have different considerations to a domestic property).

Key considerations
The key points to consider are that the items are placed for ease of operation, visibility, height and freedom from obstruction. The main concern is that all users should be able to locate a control, know what setting it is on, and use it without inadvertently changing its setting.

In terms of visibility, a switch, outlet or control will meet the requirements if the front plates contrast visually with their background (i.e. there must be at least a 30 point difference in the Light Reflective Value (LRV) between the accessory and the background.)

To explain this further – white (if pure) has an LRV of 100 and Black an LRV of 0. It has been suggested by the Disabled Living Foundation that large white switches on a dark background are easier to distinguish for people with visual impairment. It is suggested, therefore, to comply with Part M, that the switch contrasts the front plate and the front plate contrasts the wall to ensure visibility. Light Reflecting Values of products should be supplied by the product manufacturer and by using these values with the known LRV of the background, compliance can be assured.
It is also important to note that the colours red and green should not be used in combination as indication of ‘on’ and ‘off’ for switches and controls as this is not suitable for colour blind people. Text or a neon light should be used for this purpose.

It is also an advantage if individual switches on panels and on multiple sockets outlets are well separated, or in the form of large touch plates, to avoid the inadvertent selection of an adjacent control by people who have limited dexterity or whom are visually impaired. Within Deta’s range there are wide rocker plate switches which have different colour rockers to their surround. Also, the switches on outboard rockers are well separated from one another.

Gridswitch offers another opportunity to meet the requirements of Part M. With different colour gridplates available to contrast with their background and with the benefit of being able to mix and match switch modules, compliance is easy.

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