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Making Outdoor Spaces Accessible

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Making Outdoor Spaces Accessible

With longer days, and warmer weather, I am anxious to be able to get out and enjoy the outdoors. I don’t know about you but there is something truly special about spending time on a deck or patio on a pleasant day.  Now that spring is here, I thought I’d share a few tips to make your deck or patio safer and more accessible.

Add a portable threshold to the doorway. Exterior doors tend to have a higher threshold or lip to keep out the elements. And 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, use a portable threshold ramp. 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. You will want two ramps to accommodate a sliding door entry, one for each side of the channel.  Available from www.budgetramps.com.

Once you are outside, make sure that the area itself is accessible. 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 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.

Keep safety in mind.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Solar lights make exteriors safer. Solar lights around your deck or patio will provide soft lighting automatically after dark — no switches to remember to turn on or off. A variety of styles are available that simply push into the ground and operate on the energy from the sun. For raised porches or decks, solar step lights mount on your stair risers, absorb the sun’s energy by day and automatically turn on to light your steps for 6-8 hours in the evening.
  • Motion sensor lights can be easily installed with a few simple tools. Place them at the doorway to your deck or patio and at any corners or entry points to provide light as you approach. These lights are a nice safety precaution for your home too. Look for solar and automatic lighting options at home improvement centers.

Here is hoping these tips will help you to enjoy your outdoor spaces more. Visit www.MakingLifeEasier.com and click on Tip Lists for "10 Ways to Make Outdoor Spaces More Accessible." For more tips on making your whole home more accessible, look for a copy of my latest book, “Home Accessibility: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier™, at your local library or favorite bookstore or online retailer.

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