10 Ways to Make Outdoor Spaces More Accessible
- Make sure doorways are accessible. Sliding doors which commonly are used to provide access to a deck or patio can have high, multiple channel lips just waiting to catch a wheel, cane tip, or shuffling foot. To ease your ability to move from inside to outside and back, install a portable threshold ramp to each side of the channel. Made of lightweight but sturdy aluminum, that will not rust or corrode, threshold ramps come in heights from 1-6 inches, to provide a gentle transition and various widths to extend the full width of the doorway. Check out Discount Ramps and Express Ramps.
- Make sure your space is large enough to enjoy. The average wheelchair needs a clear pathway at least 3-feet wide to pass and at least 5-feet to turn around, so your deck or patio needs to be large enough for whatever planters, furniture, grills, or storage devices you desire while leaving 5-feet of open space between them. This is a much larger area than the average builder allows, so if you are building or remodeling, be sure your contractor is aware of Universal Design and Accessibility guidelines so you do not end up with a space too small for you to use.
- Texture concrete surfaces. Non-slip coatings can be applied to deck and patio surfaces to give better grip under foot. Ask about these at your local home improvement store.
- Use contrasting railings and plantings, even colored cement, to help those with low vision more easily “see” the edges of the patio or even to mark a clear pathway to and from the door.
- Raise (or lower) benches, planters, electric outlets, light switches, and water sources to a height that is easily reachable from a seated position. Between 18 inches from the floor and 54 inches overhead is within the average person’s height, but if you are shorter or taller, adjust accordingly.
- Use a grill on a stand that provides space to hang tools, set serving platters, and, and slide hot dishes onto before serving. Gas grills are easier to light and control than charcoal.
- Install solar or automatic lights to make exteriors safer. Motion sensor lights go on automatically whenever someone walks through the sensor area. They replace existing lights or install easily over doorways and other access points and provide hands-free lighting and increased safety. Solar lights collect energy from the sun by day and provide soft lighting automatically after dark; no switches to remember to turn on or off. There are even solar step lights to mount on stair risers that light the way for 6-8 hours. Look for these at lighting, discount, home and garden centers.
- Use self-watering planters and containers to grow everything from colorful plants to organic vegetables. You can purchase self-watering containers at garden centers, however, they are easy to make from ordinary buckets, soda bottles, and other things you may already have around the house. For instructions and for more ideas on how to grow nutritious food in small urban spaces, visit www.urbanorganicgardener.com.
- Use a spray wand to water hard to reach planters. If you have hanging or deep planters that are hard to reach, consider purchasing a water wand with a shut off valve. Similar to the typical hose end spray nozzles, the wand extends your reach up to 28 inches. Ask about these at home and garden centers.
- Attach a pulley to a bird feeder. Attract birds to your outdoor space for colorful entertainment. To make cleaning and filling the feeder easier, attach it to a rope and pulley that you can raise and lower as needed.
For more tips and strategies for making your home safer and more accessible, pick up a copy of Home Accessibility: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier by Shelley Peterman Schwarz at a library, bookstore, or on-line bookseller.
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