While decks are wonderful places for people without physical challenges to enjoy the outdoors, most deck designs have stairs or other features that make them difficult for people in wheelchairs to fully enjoy. Fortunately, modifying a deck plan to make it wheelchair accessible does not have to be difficult. With minor changes, you can plan a deck that everyone can enjoy, regardless of physical ability.
Parallel Ramp and Stairs
One of the most logical strategies for allowing access to your deck from the ground is to place a set of stairs and a ramp side by side. This allows everyone to reach your deck from the same access point. You will need to leave out a larger section of your deck railing to accommodate both the stairs and the ramp.
A wood or composite ramp can become rather slippery during periods of rain or snow, making your deck difficult for people in wheelchairs to access. Adding non-slip tread strips to the ramp's surface will help these people ascend the ramp much more easily. Adding tread also helps prevent injuries from sliding or tipping over.
Ramp Hand Rails
Consider adding hand rails to your deck ramp to make accessibility even easier. The hand rails will likely be lower than safety railing on the remainder of your deck, so that they can be easily reached by a person ascending or descending the ramp in a wheelchair. Hand rails also increase slip resistance. Used in conjunction with non-slip tread strips, they can help make you deck's ramp safe in all kinds of weather.
If you are designing a ramp to a high raised deck, consider adding level landings where wheelchair riders can stop and rest. The length of a ramp can be no longer than 12 feet between level landings. Also, you should leave a 5-foot clearance at landings so riders can freely turn.
Ramps can add functionality and accessibility without taking away from the aesthetic qualities of your deck. You can use benches, hard landscaping, tall plants or potted flowers to minimise the aesthetic impact of a ramp. Adding landscaping around the ramp also provides a more pleasant view for a person ascending or descending the ramp.
Like single-level decks, multi-level decks can incorporate ramps as well as stairs. Consider using a side-by-side approach to allow people to access all areas of your deck via stairs or ramps.