Building Accessibility Guidelines: What’s the difference between Document M and BS 8300?

Most of the projects we work on at Innova involve new builds or major refurbishments. That means our team, plus the architects and contractors we work with, always have a key focus on complying with building regulations.

Whether we’re installing hoist systems in a new hospital, helping a care home to transform their space, or installing a Changing Place facility, we’re always referring back to building regulations.

These regulations are as much about accessibility and ensuring buildings are fit for purpose as they are about general health and safety. Of course, accessibility is especially important when designing and developing care environments.

When it comes to building accessibility guidelines, there are two main standards you should be working to – Document M and BS 8300. What’s the difference and when do they apply?

We’ve broken down the key differences in this handy guide!

What is Document M?

Document M outlines the statutory guidance for the access to and use of buildings.

There are two volumes:

  • For dwellings – this contains sections dedicated to accessible dwellings and dwellings for wheelchair users
  • For buildings other than dwellings

These guidelines are published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. It’s part of a collection of approved documents the government provides to maintain consistent standards in the construction industry.

In short, Document M sets the baseline for accessibility for all buildings.

When does Document M apply?

An important thing to remember is Document M only applies to England.

Within England, Document M applies to all buildings. It is a legal requirement.

The individuals completing the building work e.g. designers, architects, builders, or installers are responsible for ensuring all work complies with building regulations.

If work does not comply, the building owner can be served with an enforcement notice. They will then be required to make adaptations to ensure the building complies with regulations. If these changes are not made, the owner may face fines.

Tip: Work with a specialist. If you’re building a dwelling for a wheelchair user, work with designers and installers with experience in this area! They will ensure you remain compliant with Document M.

Approved inspector reviewing building for Document M compliance

You can also hire an approved inspector to review your plans and building work. They can advise on any changes that may be needed to stay compliant.

BS 8300

BS 8300 defines the best practices for designing an accessible and inclusive environment.

There are two parts:

  • BS 8300-1 – for external environments e.g. car parks and access routes.
  • BS 8300-2 – for buildings e.g. internal layout and facilities.

These building standards were developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI).

BSI is the national standards body for the UK. They produce technical standards for a wide range of sectors – including building and construction.

BS 8300-1 and BS 8300-2 were published in 2018. They replaced BS 8300:2009.

What has changed?

The original 2009 edition was focused on ensuring buildings better met the needs of people with disabilities. The updated 2019 editions, however, are more generally focused on maximising inclusivity.

The current guidelines strive to incorporate accessible design into mainstream design, rather than having specific features and facilities designated as ‘accessible’.

By following BS 8300-1 and BS 8300-2, architects, contractors, and installers can incorporate the access requirements of everyone who uses the building, not just those with recognised physical disabilities, into all areas of the building’s design.

This results in a building that’s more truly inclusive and meets the needs of a wider range of visitors.

Accessible entrance
Accessibility is about more than just having level-access entrances, BS 8300 acknowledges the need to incorporate inclusivity into all areas of building design

To summarise, if Document M sets the baseline for accessibility then BS 8300 provides the best practices for maximising accessibility and inclusion.

When does BS 3800 apply?

Unlike with Document M, BS 8300 applies to the whole UK – not just England!

However, BS 8300 does not apply to individual dwellings, or to residential buildings specifically designed for the care of people with complex or multiple disabilities.

This is because these standards were developed to promote accessibility and inclusivity for a wide range of users. Where a building serves a specific user group, it’s more practical to do designs and building work on a case by case basis. That way, you can tailor all aspects of the building to meet their individual needs.

BS 8300 can be applied to a wide range of buildings used by the general public, including:

  • Train stations, service stations, and other transport buildings.
  • Industrial buildings.
  • Commercial buildings e.g. offices or shopping centres.
  • Hospitals and other healthcare buildings.
  • Restaurants, pubs, arenas, and other recreational buildings.
  • Religious buildings.
  • Educational and cultural buildings e.g. universities and museums.

There’s one more important thing to remember…

By default, BS 8300 is not a legal requirement. Complying with BS 8300 goes beyond the minimum requirement for accessibility.

However, these standards are becoming more important as the UK becomes more aware of the need to make public buildings more inclusive.

As such, some components of BS 8300 are now required in certain settings.

Interior of Changing Places Facility at the National Galleries of Scotland
Changing Places are part of BS 8300 guidelines. From 2021, they are a legal requirement in all new build public venues over a certain size.

For example, as of 2021, Changing Places toilets are required in new public buildings. You can learn more about these new guidelines in our Guide to the Changing Places Fund Announcement.

Tip: If you’re working on a project that requires a Changing Place facility, download our free Changing Places checklist

This will ensure that your layout, design, and equipment is BS 8300-compliant. If you’ve got any other queries, please get in touch. We can manage the whole design and installation process for you to guarantee compliance.

Document M vs. BS 8300

The table below summarises the key differences between Document M and BS 8300 when it comes to building accessibility guidelines:

Document M BS 8300
Published by Government – Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government BSI
Legal Requirement? Yes Not always
Applies in England The UK
Applies to Private dwellings and public buildings Public buildings and residential buildings with shared access e.g. care homes or student accommodation

How to comply with building regulations

We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of the differences between Document M and BS 8300 – and how to comply with both!

At Innova, our work is always up to standard for accessibility. Our experienced team are trained in building regulation compliance. We also work with leading contractors and architects who understand the importance of building regulations just as much as we do.

If you need support on an upcoming building project, please contact us. We’re more than happy to help: