Guest Blog #48, Entry #447, March 14, 2011
When we create outdoor spaces, from our porches and decks, to the stepping stone garden that meanders around our house, do we ever think about is this area accessible for all? Outdoor spaces especially have the characteristics of being uneven, narrow, and often times unaccessible for those who have special needs, as well as elderly, or those who have small children with strollers.
Creating outdoor spaces that have proper width clearances, even ground, and ensure leisure areas have good seating for everyone to enjoy the outdoors.
Today, I’m pleased to have Guest Blogger, Wendy Martin Turley from Parenting Blind By Design, to discuss how to make your outdoor areas accessible and enjoyable for all. After all, when you have you entertain this season, what is better than inviting the neighborhood over for a barbecue? Feel comfortable and confident that your home is enjoyed by all your guests!
Outdoor Spaces for Everyone
There’s always one house on the block that has people in their backyard all summer long. But how can you do this when your house has special needs?
First thing people think of is let’s play it safe. This is often an uninspired look that leads to a place no one can enjoy and therefore isn’t used.
You don’t need a flat square space even if you have a walker or wheelchair. What you do need are wide secure paths. Make sure that all entrances and exits are ease to pass through. Any stairs or ramps should have handrails. Deck or patio edges should be bordered by a railing, wall, benches or planters. This will help lessen the chances of falls. Also, when using a builder in your area be aware of local by-laws on how to construct decks and patios in your area because if they are constructed incorrectly you may not be able to sell your property before it’s repaired. These by-laws are there for safety too, so get the permits you need and feel confident that your new space is a safe place.
A great space for everyone has been well thought out.
Dos and Don’ts for creating your outdoor space:
– Do decide on a number of people maximum you want to be out there at one time.
– Do create zones with wide paths between zones (3’) for wheelchair or walker use.
– Do create a space where wheelchair or walkers can turn around in (5’ dia. Space)
– Do make a space where walkers or wheelchairs can go within the space (i.e. lounge space) that has them in the space and not within the walkway and they don’t get blocked in either.
– Do invest in good furniture which has the seat height of 18”-19”.
– Do plan on where you are going to store your cushions, because no one wants a wet seat. A storage bench can add to your seating and add needed storage space.
– Do try to keep the lounge area away from the BBQ area for safety reasons.
– Do if you can have a window close to the BBQ area so that food and supplies can be passed through and hot food is kept off the walking paths.
– Don’t use gravel for walkways or broken slate, these are tripping hazards. Do use solid surface treatments, like concrete (can be coloured or stained).
– Don’t use a rug, they become a tripping hazard and makes the use of walkers or wheelchairs impossible to manoeuvre over.
– Don’t clutter the space with things that can become tripping hazards as the numbers of people increase in your space.
Small planters are nice; however, they should carefully used. The pottery bowl of strawberries is pretty on the corner of the stairs, but it’s a tripping hazard and a barrier to reaching the railing. Instead, build in planters on either side of the stairs and along the deck. At the right height the built-in planters can hold vegetables, fruit and flowers a person in a wheelchair or using a walker can putter around in.
Do make sure that you have shade for the lounge and eating areas as these are the places where you will spend the most of your outdoor time.
Lighting is another special safety feature that will extend your time on your patio or deck. Light your paths and edging of the deck or patio. There are many kinds of lights out there, but LED lights have come a long way and rope lighting can be laid in a garden bed, or by the path to give that extra guidance. LED lighting has come far recently and it’s improving as time goes by. They are cost effective too. Candles and tiki torches should be kept to the minimum also, because of the increase in fire hazards. If you want natural bug protection, try marigolds or other indigenous plants that secret scents that repels the local bugs.
I won’t be recommending a specific brand of outdoor furniture act I am a Canadian Interior Decorator and not familiar with what sells within you region. I just will leave this with the note that, nature knows no colour limits, and with today’s developments in outdoor furniture, ensure that it is solid, fade resistant and rust resistant.
The patio or deck have become actual rooms now within our homes, so don’t feel guilty when you’re investing in its furnishings.
Deck the deck when it’s cool with pillows and throws. Table top fires can be purchased and enjoyed also. But always make sure that you have a fire extinguisher nearby the main exit.
Enjoy your dishes outside by mixing and matching old dishes for that mismatched feel. People will have memories of those plates and you can create conversations about those memories.
Just eat, drink and be merry. Life is for those that reach out and grasp it. Simply plan everything step by step.
- How safe are the entrances and exits of your yard and home. (Should have 2 exits from backyard)
- Wide even paths that are well lit. (3’ wide)
- Zones for entertaining (BBQ, Lounge, and Dining)
- Do provide a 5’ diameter space for wheelchairs and walkers can turn around that’s not near the stairs.
- Ensure that the deck, patio, stairs and ramps are surrounded by something like a railing, built-in planters, and bench seating/storage.
- Decide on the number of people you want at any given time on your deck or patio and plan for that many. Include a space where a wheelchair or walker can go that’s out of the way of traffic but easily accessible by the person. Don’t make them feel like they are in the way or have been tossed aside.
- Do buy furniture with a seat height of 18”x19” high, for mobility restricted people.
- Do plan on where you’re going to store those cushions because you don’t want to be always sitting on a wet cushion.
- Think of plants as a raised garden bed for the aging gardener.
Well I hope this gives some people ideas on what they can do if they to entertain people with special needs. I know it’s always fun here because life always tosses something new into the fray.
The big thing is, just get out and enjoy yourself!
Wendy Martin Turley is an Interior Decorating Student at Humber College and will be graduating in April 2011. I’m a wife and a mother. Sounds simple right? Here’s where it gets complicated. I’m no bored housewife. My husband, Peter is blind and my son was born 11 weeks premature. I learnt fast how important great design makes life easier and possible in some cases. I started with our nursery and then decided that there was a need out there for Great Design to make living possible for those with disabilities. Also find Wendy on Twitter
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