planning a garden for all abilities

Planning a garden for all abilities

Designing accessible landscapes through all abilities garden design planning

Depending on age and ability - what one person may perceive as an interesting design feature, another may consider a physical obstacle or a trip hazard. Putting a little thought into creating a garden that is accessible to friends and family is something you may thank yourself for later.

While a multi terraced garden is easily accessible to the young and able, we will all grow old eventually so it’s important to consider how we will access parts of the garden in our latter days. At the same time, while with little people in the garden, prams and small steps must be kept in mind too. In each unique case, step height, ramp access, hand rails and balustrades may need to be considered for a multitude of reasons. 

While considering the layout of your new garden, be sure to ask yourself a few important questions such as the following - 

How long do you plan to live there? 

Is your current residence an investment property, and will you be moving on to another dwelling in the near future? Obviously this may well be the key to the budget that you allocate to the development of the garden. At the same time, if you foresee yourself settling into this space long term - why not make it a garden that you can enjoy in your latter years as much as you do now. Is it possible to reach different parts of the garden without the need for steps? If you have to install steps; how steep will they need to be and will there be need for a hand rail or guard rails? 

Stepped or ramped access? 

Ramps are often feared for the space that they can occupy in a garden or landscape. However, we are not suggesting that we install sloped access merely for the sake of reaching the upper levels of your garden! The suggestion is that if you can provide access to just some areas by means of slopes rather than steps - this will open up the possibilities and routes around a garden for a wheelchair user, rather than just leaving people restricted to just the patio space. 

Do you need to use side of house access for movement of wheelie bins, lawn-mower etc?

Wheelie bins and prams can be terribly awkward items to manoeuvre up and down steps, so ensure that the route that you use to move these items is as easily traversable as possible. When someone considers ease of access, the natural inclination is to consider wheelchair users and disabilities. While these are important to think about at design stage; so is the manner by which you get daily utility items through and around the house. 

Regulations and guidance 

Steps are a very common feature in the garden, but the kind of intervention that can be uncomfortable to walk on if the riser (height of the step) is too high, or if the thread (top of the step where your foot lands) is too narrow, you might find it helpful to research more detailed information about stair standards and dimensions by referring to British Standards Part M- Access for People with Disabilities. Similarly, sloped access is only useful if the gradient is calculated correctly. A landscape architect will talk you through these detailed documents – but the important thing is by complying with access regulations – outdoor steps will be comfortable to use, and handrails and balustrades will be located at the key points where they will be required. 

For further information on garden concepts and design, you can visit our garden centre in Cork or call us on 021 4888134. We are open 7 days.