Designing Accessible Granny Flats

Designing accessible granny flats creates living spaces suited to people with different mobility requirements. This includes elderly people as well as people with injuries or physical disabilities that require wheelchair use. Accessible granny flat designs incorporate features like wider hallways for wheelchairs to navigate in and handrails to provide extra support. Co-design is a good way to create living spaces that suit someone’s needs.

What is accessible design?

Accessible design, also referred to as universal design, refers to products or offerings created to accommodate people with different abilities or disabilities. The idea is to create something that can effectively be used by anyone. In the building industry, accessible design is used to incorporate features in a home that aid people with disabilities or mobility issues and allow them to function without problems. Granny flats are able to incorporate these principles into their builds, especially when housing the elderly or people with physical limitations.

Who can benefit from accessible granny flat design?

Accessible granny flat design benefits people with different mobility requirements. For some, there are home features that are essential for safe and effective navigation. Often this will be the elderly, and people with injuries or physical disabilities. Wheelchair users are one of the most significant beneficiaries of accessible granny flats. Designing and building an accessible granny flat makes a space more inclusive and accommodating. Remember, it’s not only for owners but also for guests.

Accessible granny flat design for the elderly

An accessible granny flat design makes life easier for elderly occupants. Granny flats are often considered the perfect home for the elderly parents of homeowners. A granny flat allows them their own space while having them nearby. Elderly people suffer losses to their mobility with age. This makes everyday tasks harder and leaves them more prone to accidents. Granny flats designed with this in mind create a safer and more accommodating living space.

Accessible granny flat design for wheelchair users

Accessible granny flat design greatly benefits wheelchair users. Many people with diminished mobility are wheelchair users. Wheelchair users require features in a granny flat to accommodate their unique needs. This includes making the granny flat suitable for permanent wheelchair use. It also involves making features such as sinks and light switches easy to access, such as installing them in a lower position. Custom granny flat designs are more suited to accommodating wheelchair users.

Elderly woman sitting on yellow chair, wearing white shirt and reading a book

Accessible granny flat features

To successfully create an accessible granny flat, you need to pick the appropriate features. These features typically limit the potential for accidents and make things like switches and sinks easy to access. The more accessible features a granny flat can incorporate, the better the experience that the occupants will have.

Even levels

Keeping the levels of your granny flats at a fairly constant elevation is a great way to minimise potential dangers. Steps create issues with accessibility for many people. Elderly people may have trouble climbing steps –increasing the risk of accidents – and wheelchair users will be unable to push their wheelchairs up them. The most accessible design choice for this would be to minimise points of elevation throughout the granny flat. A one-story granny flat that doesn’t utilise many steps is ideal for this purpose.


Handrails are an important source of physical stability for occupants. They are especially necessary in areas of the house such as the toilet, bathroom and bedroom. Handrails help people with mobility issues to get both in and out of seated or lying positions. Throughout other areas of the house, they can provide some additional physical support when someone needs a structure to lean on. They are particularly necessary if there are steps within or leading into the house. Handrails and the walls they are mounted on must be reinforced to be strong enough to handle the weight of a human being.

Height of features

The height of different features in the house can be customised to suit wheelchair users. Due to wheelchair users operating at a lower height, it’s important that the features match the lower height for easy access. Kitchen countertops, bathroom sinks, light switches and cabinets  need to be low enough to be reached with little effort. Storage spaces throughout the granny flat must be in accessible locations, so closets and attics would not be viable. Wardrobes can be designed with pulldown features that allow drawers to be lowered.

Sufficient Space

Wheelchairs require greater width to comfortably move around and operate, especially in regards to turning. Given the limited size of a granny flat, it is important to take into account how wider hallways will affect the size and shape of other rooms. Open-plan designs are good for wheelchair users since they minimise unnecessary doors and entryways.


Wheelchairs are not suited to going over stairs, so ramps are necessary for moving to different levels. Ramps should be installed in any area of the granny flat that may be on a higher or lower level than an adjoining area. Frequently they will be adjoining the front porch to the entrance or the back entrance to the backyard. Ramps should be gradual and not overly steep.

Suitable doors

Certain types of doors are much more suitable for people with impaired mobility. Wheelchair users in particular benefit from sliding doors. This creates a more convenient way to get in and out of rooms without needing to make space for the door. Wide swinging doors might also be a good option, as they provide more space when they open.

Suitable flooring

Choosing suitable flooring is important to provide safe and convenient ease of movement throughout your granny flat. Wheelchairs users in particular have certain needs when it comes to the type of floor. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are a good option since they don’t provide accessible friction or allow the wheelchair to get stuck. If a softer type of flooring is preferred, a tight-weave carpet may also work well. However, flooring with low maintenance requirements would be preferred. This is to minimise the necessary cleaning and lessen the burden on occupants.

Non-slip surfaces

Some areas of the granny flat need to be non-slip surfaces. This relates primarily to wet areas like the bathroom and kitchen. Showers and baths carry a high risk of slippage due to the high presence of water. This is especially dangerous for elderly occupants. The kitchen carries a higher risk of slipping due to water from the sink and liquids used for cooking. Including non-slip surfaces makes a safer environment and lowers the risk of an accident. 

Disabled toilets

Disabled toilets have features that make them more suitable for someone with diminished mobility. These include handrails, non-slip tiles and lower heights. They also have tapware and levers designed for high manoeuvrability. Having a disabled toilet as an ensuite is great for increasing accessibility.

Seated showers

Seated showers make it easier for occupants to bathe. Whilst handrails can be held onto while standing up to shower, seated showers provide a more comfortable and less strenuous way for people to clean themselves.

Smart granny flat features

Smart granny flat features can be a big help in making life more convenient for those with diminished mobility. They allow occupants to do tasks like turn on lights or set alarms handsfree. This means less time getting up and walking unnecessarily. As a result, smart granny flat features help to improve safety as well.

What is co-design?

Co-design is a design principle that involves collaboration between the occupant and the designer of a dwelling. This is particularly important in cases where the occupants have physical disabilities, since they bring unique challenges. Using their experience, they’re able to advise about a home layout to best suit their mobility. Co-design has been heavily encouraged by the national disability insurance scheme (NDIS). Granny Flats WA specialises in building custom granny flats; we’ve delivered the dream home for a wide range of Western Australians, all with different needs and wants!

Who can design an accessible granny flat for me?

Granny Flats WA can help you design the accessible granny flat you’re looking for. As Perth’s premier builder of granny flats, we are specialist custom builders, but we also have a range of ready-made designs. We thrive on ensuring that our customers have all their needs met. We help you through the process of submitting paperwork and make your dream granny flat a reality.

Give us a ring or fill out the enquiry form for an obligation-free chat to see if we can help you.