Best Flooring for Wheelchairs: 4 Options to Consider and What to Avoid

From parquet to rubber and even to carpers, we discuss how safe and comfortable each flooring type is for a person in a wheelchair.
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Last updatedLast updated: June 15, 2022
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Would you like to know what the best flooring for wheelchairs is? When building a house or renovating an apartment for people with restricted mobility due to a disability, planning is important to ensure a carefree and independent life. The choice of a wheelchair-accessible floor covering must meet each person’s requirements and the regulations in your region. So, what is the best flooring for wheelchairs?

It is generally recommended to use a floor covering that is robust, hard, non-slip, clear, and easy to clean as possible – such as parquet – as this is the most likely to meet the different standards. However, in this article, we will see more on the general requirements to have the best flooring for wheelchairs and walkers and the flooring types that are not recommended.

General Requirements to Floor and Ground Surfaces Safe for a Person in a Wheelchair

In principle, everyone can design their living area according to their ideas, but there are also standards regarding accessibility for people with disabilities. A room is considered barrier-free if disabled people can enter and use it without restrictions.

The type of disability is irrelevant – people with walking disabilities and visually impaired people should be able to get by on their own.

  • The floor covering should be risk-free and easy to walk on or drive on in a wheelchair/walker. Therefore, the floor covering must be as solid as possible. It must not leave any dents or grooves from the wheelchair. So, carpets or rugs are not a great choice for wheelchair accessibility.
  • For a single wheelchair passage, the  minimum clear width Trusted Source Department of Justice ADA Title III Regulation 28 CFR Part 36 (1991) The ADA Home Page provides access to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations for businesses and State and local governments, technical assistance materials, ADA Standards for Accessible Design, links to Federal agencies with ADA responsibilities and information, updates on new ADA requirements, streaming video, information about Department of Justice ADA settlement agreements, consent decrees, and enforcement activities and access to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ADA material www.ada.gov is 815 mm or 32 inches, while the minimum for two wheelchairs to pass is 60 inches, according to ADA regulations.
  • The surface of the floor covering must be level. The grout joint must not be larger than 1.5 mm on the inside and no larger than 4 mm on the outside. In the case of paved paths, joints must not be wider than 2 mm.
  • Slip resistance Trusted Source Chapter 3: Floor and Ground Surfaces The U.S. Access Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology. www.access-board.gov is also another requirement. It is essential to ensure no tripping hazards or obstructed views, and the floor covering should always be non-slip. The slip resistance of at least R9 applies here, which is particularly suitable for entrance areas in the house.
  • Floor coverings must not be reflective or dazzling, as this can affect safety. Therefore, the surface should not be too smooth or shiny. They must not cause visual or sound discomfort for people with visual or sound impairments.
  • In wet areas and bathrooms, the roughness of the floor should not be less than R10.

Types of Flooring Compatible with a Wheelchair

Best Flooring for Wheelchairs: 4 Options to Consider and What to Avoid

Given the needs of people in wheelchairs and the regulations on what the most suitable environment should be, here are the best flooring types for wheelchair and walker users.

Parquet Floors

Apart from its visually appealing properties, parquet is also a suitable floor covering – under certain conditions. Good parquet floors are very durable and warm to the feet. Wheelchair-friendly use essentially depends on the material and the surface treatment. For example, a parquet floor finished with high-gloss lacquer is unsuitable for people in wheelchairs, as it is smooth and has reflections.

Anyone who chooses parquet as a floor covering is making a good choice. This means that the wheelchair cannot only be moved on the floor without any problems, but it also remains resistant to signs of wear and tear. But we’d advise you to choose an oiled floor rather than a sealed parquet floor.

Sealed floors are maintained with emulsifiers, which are easily removed by the wheelchair. This results in so-called streaking and burned-in marks on the surface, which are difficult to remove. A thorough cleaning followed by a new treatment is necessary here. On the other hand, with an oiled surface, the streaks can be evened out by simply polishing.

It is always advisable to consult a specialist who can point out the special features and care of the parquet. 

Cork Floors

Cork flooring is also wheelchair and walker accessible. It’s the best type to be paired with the best manual wheelchairs because they’re not as heavy as an electric wheelchair or walker. Cork flooring is soft, cleans easily, and also absorbs shock underfoot. It is also not noisy and also has good thermal and acoustic insulation. If older people use a wheelchair, cork flooring is appropriate since the chair will be able to grip the floor correctly.

Cork flooring is made from the bark of cork oak trees and can still resist scratches than hardwood floors. But still, we’d advise only a lightweight wheelchair for cork flooring. The Karman Healthcare wheelchair would be a great pick because it weighs only 19.8 pounds and is ultralight.

Stains are easy to remove on a cork floor and can be vacuumed regularly to maintain a good appearance. Of course, it is not without drawbacks. Because cork is a soft material, it can be easily damaged. It is only moderately resistant to water, and fairly heavy spills could damage the material considerably. But if you’re flooring the living area with cork, then we advise you choose one of the best lightweight wheelchairs.

Vinyl Floors

Vinyl floors have good resistance and low maintenance. It is a highly water-resistant material. But we cannot forget that the seams of vinyl tiles and planks can allow water to pass through to the subfloor. So the water that is in it can become a real problem. But they are usually strong and would be ideal for those who choose to use an electric wheelchair which is heavier.

This material comes at different prices, although it is generally relatively affordable. It’s pretty hard and smooth, suitable for rolling on, and isn’t as cold as tile.

However, if the vinyl is plastic, it looks and feels like plastic because that is what it is. That is why it should be used in bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, etc. But it is not a good option for living rooms or places where comfort or aesthetic is required.

Rubber Floors

Rubber flooring is a very safe floor type for people with disabilities. This flooring is mostly used in gyms and exercise rooms as it is shock and slip-resistant and highly durable. But we cannot ignore that the seams are vulnerable to letting water into the subfloor, making standing water a problem.

On the other hand, this type of flooring is quite expensive. In addition, it is not a cozy material; although it comes in different styles, colors, and textures, they are very limited.

Types of Flooring Not Good for a Wheelchair

Best Flooring for Wheelchairs: 4 Options to Consider and What to Avoid

Of course, some floor coverings are rather unsuitable for indoor use. However, there are only a few that are not recommended.

These include, above all, very soft floor coverings or those that have long bevels or loops. An obstacle can also be highly reflective and smooth surfaces that make it easier to slip.

No loose floor coverings should be laid:  carpets are not a good choice Trusted Source Accessibility Design Manual : 2-Architechture : 1-Ramps www.un.org  for barrier-free areas, according to the United Nations’ Enable design manual for a barrier-free environment for the disabled.

In summary, the interior flooring materials which are not authorized are generally all floorings that could cause the chair to slip, varnished parquet, for example.

How to Make a Flooring Safer for a Person in a Wheelchair?

It is fundamentally essential for wheelchair users that a floor covering can be driven on easily and without restrictions with a wheelchair. Therefore, parquet, laminate, tiles, or other solid floor coverings are suitable here.

Carpeting or PVC are not optimal – because the more elastic or softer the floor covering is, the more difficult it is for wheelchair users to move on it. Furthermore, floor coverings must be firmly laid or glued to the subsurface – they must not shift, be slippery, or even make waves.

The living area for the disabled person in a wheelchair must be 100% accessible. That is, even the bathroom entrance must be level with no obstacle. If it’s not level, you may need a solid rubber ramp such as the Ruedamann Threshold Ramp. With a 1.5-inch rise and groove that prevents slipping, this would make the doorway and bathroom accessible for wheelchair drives.

It is also essential to ensure that a floor covering does not become electrostatically charged. If this cannot be guaranteed, a conductive installation must be provided. Additional coating and sealing may also be required. 

In principle, the longitudinal gradient of a floor must not be more than 3% so that the wheelchair doesn’t move by itself.

Single-story buildings or apartments on the ground floor are the best for people on wheelchairs as they wouldn’t have to use the staircase, thereby falling while trying to do that on their own. For homes with stairs, in addition to having to opt for a floor covering adapted to the disabled, you may also need to set up a lift or get a  stair chair Trusted Source Disability Transfer Devices: Hoists, Elevators, Stair Lifts : Disabled World Information on different types of hoists, elevators, transfer devices, and stairlifts for the disabled and seniors with mobility problem www.disabled-world.com  for the disabled.

Final Thoughts

The best flooring for wheelchair users is the one that complies with the rules of accessibility and the needs and taste of the disabled person. For example, rugs, bridges, and carpets on a level floor should be avoided. Laminate or rubber floorings are ideal. Of course, a parquet floor is also ideal, but it requires a lot of care and should not be sealed.

In any case, hard floor coverings such as tiles, laminate, parquet, or natural stone floors are also a good choice. They are durable and easy to care for, but they also offer people with walking disabilities easy mobility in a wheelchair.

References

1.
Department of Justice ADA Title III Regulation 28 CFR Part 36 (1991)
The ADA Home Page provides access to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations for businesses and State and local governments, technical assistance materials, ADA Standards for Accessible Design, links to Federal agencies with ADA responsibilities and information, updates on new ADA requirements, streaming video, information about Department of Justice ADA settlement agreements, consent decrees, and enforcement activities and access to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ADA material
2.
Chapter 3: Floor and Ground Surfaces
The U.S. Access Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology.
3.
Accessibility Design Manual : 2-Architechture : 1-Ramps
4.
Disability Transfer Devices: Hoists, Elevators, Stair Lifts : Disabled World
Information on different types of hoists, elevators, transfer devices, and stairlifts for the disabled and seniors with mobility problem
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