A Quick Guide to Creating Accessible Outdoor Environments

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For any service provider, there is a continually growing emphasis on creating inclusive environments for your clients and customers. Naturally, with estimates suggesting that 4.2 million Australians live with some form of disability, equating to almost 20% of the population, it is worthwhile investing your time, money and effort into ensuring that you cater to as broad a clientele as you possibly can. What must never be forgotten, though, is that accessibility does not begin and end at your front door. Consider the following guide for some essential considerations to ensure that the areas around your premises are as safe and accessible as can be.

Clearly Identify Obstacles

There are many potential stumbling blocks that a disabled person can encounter in the areas immediately surrounding a building, from bollards to barriers, and staircases to ramps. Given that many of these are essential obstacles that cannot be eliminated, making sure that they are clearly visible can go a long way to improving the experience and safety of disabled people visiting your premises.

With this in mind, ensure that all stairs are clearly marked with colour contrasting nosings (the leading edge of the stair comprising the front portion of the tread and upper portion of the riser). Tactile warnings at ground level (in the form of corduroy tiling) will also alert visually impaired people to a coming change in level. Ramps, as with stairs, should have accompanying handrails on both sides, and a gradient no steeper than 1:12.

Ensure Proper Ground Maintenance

Cracked and uneven ground around buildings is a significant issue for disabled people, but one which is very easily remedied. Walking aids such as crutches are vulnerable to slipping on loose debris on hard ground, and manually operated wheelchairs become extremely difficult to propel over rocky and uneven surfaces. Ensure that the area surrounding your building is smooth and even to maximise accessibility for any disabled visitors to your premises.

Provide Covered Areas

When considering car drop-off areas and outside seating, one consideration for disabled people which is routinely overlooked is the provision of covered areas for protection from sun and rain. Covered areas and resting spaces are particularly important for elderly people and people with mobility impairments. People who have trouble walking are considerably more likely to suffer due to excessive sun exposure in uncovered areas, and wet ground can be a significant hazard for people utilising walking aids such as sticks or crutches. An inexpensive but highly effective solution is to install shade sails in selected areas where cover is needed most. Be sure to contact a reputable supplier who can guarantee the effectiveness and lifespan of their product.