Making Outdoor Living Space More Accessible
By David Slater, Ability Beyond’s Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS)
It’s summertime – and there’s nothing like enjoying the weather outside. But the outdoors can be tricky to navigate if you are living with a disability.
As a certified aging in place specialist with Ability Beyond, I often evaluate the outdoor living areas and entry ways of our group homes to make sure that residents with disabilities can safely enjoy the outdoors and can easily navigate entry ways.
When evaluating your outdoor living space and entries for ways to improve their accessibility, keep these ten tips in mind:
- Cut back all bushes/plants/ and shrubs that encroach on pathways to reduce tripping hazards.
- Remove all planters and ornamental accessories from steps and pathways.
- Ensure that all pathways, porches, entries, steps and ramps are equipped with motion-activated LED lighting.
- Keep all hoses coiled up on wall-mounted brackets and keep hose reels away from steps, ramps or pathways.
- Make sure that all areas around driveways and walks leave enough room for snow removal and clear access to navigate from car to home.
- If a ramp is being considered to access the home, the rule is: for every inch of rise, there needs to be one foot of run. For example: if from the grade of the approach driveway or walk to the finished floor height of the home is 30”, you will need a ramp at least 30’ long. You will also need a level 5’ x 5’ landing at the homes entry that will increase the ramp length to 35’.
- Outdoor furniture; stay clear of resin (plastic) chairs and loungers. Over time, ultraviolet rays will breakdown the material, leaving them subject to breakage. Invest in sturdy furniture with arms that allow for easy access.
- Do not lock storm doors. Allow them to free swing and rely on the main door locks for security. Also, consider using a lock box with a combination code and give the code to family members and a trusted neighbor in the event that emergency access is required.
- Keep driveways and walkways in good repair so that cracks and uneven surfaces don’t present tripping hazards.
- Provide an area near your entrance door but NOT in your pathway for deliveries of packages. Provide a weather-tight bin with signage requesting for packages to be put inside rather than leaning against a door or placed on steps.