How to Design Wheelchair-Accessible Backyards

Written by judi light hopson
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How to Design Wheelchair-Accessible Backyards
Develop a backyard that allows wheelchair-bound individuals some freedom of movement. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Making a backyard friendlier for family members and guests in wheelchairs takes detailed planning. Invest time to assess how a person may wish to move about. Don't assume that an attendant will always be available, or that one will be desired; wheelchair-bound individuals may like the freedom of moving about without another person helping. Construct ramp areas and pathways to allow someone who is relatively mobile to enjoy the process of independent travel around the backyard. Build areas wide enough to allow for wheelchair movement. Utilise generous amounts of concrete rather than the bare minimum to create user-friendly spaces.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tools
  • Sketch pad
  • Catalogue of assisted living products

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    Use All Areas of the Backyard

  1. 1

    Make the back porch yard accessible. Create a ramp sloping from the back porch in one or two sections. Measure the space to decide if one ramp section or more is required. Base the ramp on the least amount of slope possible, as advised by the Americans with Disabilities guidelines. Create the slope to assist an individual in moving herself along the ramp without help. Find out zoning setback requirements from property lines before starting construction.

  2. 2

    Construct a driveway loading space. Carve out a concrete area large enough to accommodate a waiting car passenger in his wheelchair. Make the space 5 feet square or larger. Create the concrete square with several "speed bumps" to keep the chair from moving unnecessarily. Use this space as a waiting zone for a driver to help a passenger move out of the wheelchair and into the car. Add railing around three sides of the space to keep the wheelchair from running away.

  3. 3

    Install smooth riding paths for a wheelchair-bound individual in the yard. Build these paths out of concrete trowelled to a relatively slick finish. Construct the paths approximately 36 inches wide and no less than 4 inches deep, which is recommended for a basic sidewalk depth, to prevent cracking. Get a list of building codes and suggestions from city authorities. Create these paths to move around landscaped sections of the yard and around the yard perimeter. Include protective handrails, too.

  4. 4

    Construct a picnic table without a bench on one side. Create the table for someone to roll wheels of the wheelchair slightly under the table edge. Gain ideas by visiting a local park with handicap accessible tables built to specifications outlined by the Americans with Disabilities guidelines. Make sure an attendant can manoeuvre the chair easily around the table. Add a concrete base to the whole area to make rolling the chair easier.

    Use Additional Features for Safety and Comfort

  1. 1

    Create an electronic system to open and close a home's back door. Develop a push-button system so that an attendant or family member will be able to operate the automatic system, as well as the person in the wheelchair. Acquire this equipment from catalogues published for assisted living facilities.

  2. 2

    Build a patio cover or porch cover for a wheelchair-bound patient to relax in the shade. Keep in mind that anyone will use a backyard more often if weather conditions are addressed. Don't overlook adding a media cabinet for a TV or CD player under a watertight roof. Use underground conduit to run electrical wiring to a backyard area for a plug-in.

  3. 3

    Install backyard gates for safety. Plan to place a garden gate that locks over the end of a sidewalk section. Keep in mind that a wheelchair patient can easily roll into the street. Add a gate anywhere there is traffic or a danger zone beyond the sidewalk space.

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