Tips to Build a Fully Accessible Driveway

Americas, Built Environment, Universal Design, February 22 2018

CANADA & UNITED STATES: Accessibility focused design should not just be in your home, but out on the street as well. The driveway is a particularly important place to consider the needs of the disabled, but you may be wondering exactly how to go about designing a space which is usable by everyone. With an estimated global disability prevalence of 15%, it is essential that all houses are built so that anyone can make it from sidewalk to front door. The most important factors you need to consider are size of land, materials and steepness of the ground. If you get these three right, you can be sure that your home is open to anyone you invite to visit.

Accessible paved driveway leading up to a home. Surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers

Photo by Matt Jones on Unsplash

Size of Land

Accessibility minded driveway construction will depend on the amount of land you have available. If you are limited in space, you may wish to consider trimming back bushes to clear more room for those in wheelchairs or with zimmer frames. You can also increase the size of land available by knocking down walls. The biggest obstacle in your driveway will likely be your car, so have a plan in mind for if a person with mobility difficulties visits. Is there a space available on the street where you can park it? Maybe this will be a few doors down, so consider this before hand. You can also practice parking closer to the edge of your driveway so that there is a clear pathway through to the door.

Materials Used

Once the space is cleared, you’ll have to think about what you’ll put down. Gravel is the cheapest option, so many opt for this out of cost concerns. However, for wheelchairs and mobility scooters, this can be almost impossible to navigate. Cobbles can look nice, but cause similar mobility issues. Instead, go for a smooth surface such as tarmac or stone paving. This will be easier to maintain and make life easy for those who find bumpy surfaces difficult to navigate. If you want to maintain an aesthetically pleasing driveway, then consider just having a smooth wide path, then using other materials for the outer edges.

Steepness of Ground

Smooth surfaces are a good start, but how steep is your driveway? Wheelchair users and seniors can find hills difficult and of course steps will make life even harder. See if you can get a professional in to level out the ground. A longer, flatter surface is far easier to navigate than a short steep hill. Any steps should be replaced with ramps. 10% of falls result in major injury, so lower this risk by accompanying any ramp with a handrail.

Building an environment that is accessible to all requires thorough thought. Perhaps your town already has accessible streets and footpaths and maybe your home is fully accessible as well, but have you considered the driveway? Putting down a smooth surface, flattening the gradient and clearing extra space can help everyone to feel welcome.

Written by Jane Sandwood, a professional freelance writer and editor.

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