Sharing The Great Outdoors – 4 Steps To Designing An Accessible Yard

If you have a family member living with you that has mobility issues, making your yard more accessible is one key to making the home more enjoyable and inviting for all. However, yards can be difficult to make easily traversed for disabled family or friends, so here are a few tips to get you started.

Start with Entrances. Getting into and out of the home is the first place to focus on. If the front and back doors have stairs, begin by replacing these with ramps or flattening out small elevation increases. Align your thresholds with ADA maximum guidelines of ½ to ¾ inches for the best fit. Cover the entrances in order to keep them free of ice, wind, and snow.

Make an Entertaining Space. Most homes feature an immediate area outside one of the entrances where they gather, entertain, and enjoy the yard. This space is key to making the yard accessible and should be made from flat, even surface material such as concrete, brick, wood, or pavers. Avoid materials with gaps in between them and certainly try to avoid any elevation changes. Make the entertaining space larger than normal and don't place obstructions (such as furniture, tables, planters, or kids' toys) in the main area or traffic paths.

Add Paths. Farther out from the house, you will likely want to create inviting pathways to encourage accessible use of the yard. Like the entertaining area, paths should be made from a hard and flat surface material like concrete or brick. Generally, they should be around 3 or 4 feet wide to allow wheelchairs or other mobility devices to turn around comfortably. Leave generous ramp space any time there's a change in elevation in the yard itself.

Include Destinations. Getting family members outdoors involves increasing the motivation to do so. You can help this by building destinations into your yard design. Destinations in an accessible yard can include an accessible pool or spa, a gardening table or container garden, or a relaxation nook. Complement your destinations with meandering paths that tour all throughout the yard so that family or visitors can enjoy the whole area comfortably.

If you're unsure how to improve the accessibility of any outdoor area, it may be a good time to work with an experienced landscaping designer. But --whether you do it alone or hire professional help -- the more you focus on increasing the ease of using your yard, the more everyone will be able to enjoy the outdoors in comfort and relaxation.