How to Create An Accessible Bedroom

4 min read

Last Modified 3 August 2021 First Added 21 May 2021

By Leila Jones

Dreams are proud to be exploring this topic as the Official Sleep Partner of the British Paralympic Association/ParalympicsGB. Learn more about this partnership in our ParalympicsGB hub.

A bedroom should be a sanctuary. Somewhere to relax and wind down from the day. For a person with a disability, a bedroom also needs to be accessible. It needs to be comfortable and easy to access. There are lots of factors to consider, and it starts with design, right through to the furniture chosen. We spoke to accessible design experts, wheelchair users and even staff from the British Paralympic Association to determine what makes the ultimate accessible bedroom.

Accessible Design

Karen Nichols, Principal at Michael Graves Architecture & Design in New Jersey, says accessible design can serve a wide range of people:

Karen Nichols, Principal at Michael Graves Architecture & Design

“We think of accessibility in the broadest terms. While often associated with people with disabilities, accessible design can and should serve a wide range of people no matter their ages or abilities. The designs should be user-friendly and thoughtful.

It’s much more than mobility. Accessibility is about a holistic experience that affects all the senses and contributes to wellness and wellbeing. Quality of light, combinations of colours, materials and textures, and acoustics are just as important as being able to navigate a space or a building.”

Accessible Bedrooms at the Paralympic Games

We spoke to Caz Walton OBE and Anneli Macdonald from the staff team at the British Paralympic Association about how they tailor the bedrooms in the athletes’ preparation camp to suit accessibility needs.

Caz says: “There are different needs for each Paralympian. As well as wheelchair users, you’ve got visually impaired athletes, who would have different needs, and you’ve got athletes that need a carer with them, therefore you’ve got to think about the extra space for the carer. At the ParalympicsGB, we take as much into account as we possibly can and look at every single angle. You can’t always accommodate on an individual basis, but we do the next best thing that we can and give everybody the best opportunity to have good preparation into the country. What we want to do is just make sure that every single athlete, and indeed staff member, have the best opportunity to perform at their optimum level at the Games, because that’s what it’s all about. And, whilst you can’t have a different type of bedroom for every single person, we get as close as we possibly can.

How does the Paralympic Village cater for accessibility needs?

Caz: “Over the years, the Paralympic Villages have got better and better at catering for accessibility needs. In general, they’re much more basic than hotels of course, due to financial constraints.  The accommodation consists of apartments, some will be wheelchair accessible, and some will be for ambulant athletes. The difference in the apartments is that the bathrooms are accessible for the wheelchair users. We also aim to equip the accommodation with home comforts such as kettles and TVs. The apartments are somewhere to sleep and relax, as you eat in the village dining area.

When you get to the village, that’s when you’re really about to compete. It’s the time when you feel like part of a team and “GB”. It is truly amazing to be there, so we aim to make the experience as comfortable as possible.”

Anneli says: “For both the Village and the prep camp, there is a staff team behind the scenes, who work with all the sports to try and understand the athlete’s needs. We will be told in advance which rooms they’d like to have furniture removed from so that there is more space.”

Making a Bedroom Accessible – Top Tips

Daryl Tavernor, a digital advertising consultant has used a wheelchair since the age of eight. Below are some of his top tips to making a bedroom more accessible:

  • Choose bed frames rather than divan bases. Frames allow a wheelchair user to get closer to the bed for easy transfer.
  • Avoid built-in furniture, every wheelchair user is different, so having furniture that can be moved around means that they can make the adjustments they need.
  • Modular storage is ideal, as the hanging rails can be lowered and the shelving/drawers kept at a low height.
  • Full-length mirrors help wheelchair users see everything.
  • Avoid rugs at all costs and opt for hard floors like tiles or wood.

Anneli says:

“Every person has different requirements, so making sure that solutions such as temporary grab rails and portable bed risers are available is key. If you’re unsure whether a bedroom is going to be suitable for a person with a disability, always ask.”

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