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How To Design Disabled Access Gardens

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  • How To Design Disabled Access Gardens
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  • 21-04-2022
How To Design Disabled Access Gardens

Find out more about how to design disabled access gardens. We look at  what is accessible garden design and what you can do to make your garden more accessible.

Accessible Garden Design

Garden design is a creative, thrilling experience where landscape and garden designers experiment with various mediums, materials, planting plans and ideas.

However, when you haven't been trained to lean into those imaginative skills, it can be daunting to be faced with a blank canvas or even an overgrown garden.

You may love beautiful scenery, nature, and gardening yet struggle with mobility issues, joint or muscle pain or old age that gradually prevents you from completing your tasks, like repotting, mowing, trimming, watering, etc. due to the addition of a wheelchair, walking frame or stick. 

However, it's disheartening to sit back and watch your grass grow untidy or see flowers grow and die without being able to change the soil or repot the roots, especially when it is such a wonderful, creative pastime.

We encourage you and your potential carers to seek out professional companies and trusted partners that can aid you in developing a safe, accessible garden design.

That way, you can have your whole garden or landscape revamped to suit your requirements and allow your green-thumbed self to still experience the joys of gardening at your own pace and in a way that is perfectly tailored to your ability.

Worry not; you're still capable of your stunning, magical dream garden for all the family and guests to enjoy. 

What Is Accessible Garden Design? 

Investing in an accessible garden design aims to create a beautiful outside space that is inclusive and can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their physical capabilities or age.

Developing many gardens suitable for wheelchair users, blind people or partially sighted people, or that will be easier to navigate and tend to as you grow older is an incredibly cost-effective option. 

You'll find numerous ways to redesign and make the space easy to use and more welcoming all year round. It's all about making informed product choices and understanding how your own body works to ensure all needs and requirements are met.

For example, if you're physical limitations don't allow you to fully twist around and manoeuvre efficiently. You may want to uncover the most sensible ways to sit down whilst gardening by using raised tables at a comfortable height instead of raised beds with flat sides made of treated softwood sleepers laid along your paths.

There are endless methods, products and installations you make to ensure you or disabled guests can feel comfortable in garden sitting areas, making their way around your garden or tending to it. 

How To Design Disabled Access Gardens

Accessible Garden Ideas

There are plenty of ways to make gardening more accessible and allow for two people with aid like wheelchairs or frames or more to enjoy your garden space without obstructing neighbouring properties.

Accessibility within your design will ensure you have the room and correct tools to garden comfortably in the summer without fear of falling on uneven ground, putting yourself at risk and walking side by side with guests or carers.

Here are a few top tips and examples of ways you can make your household garden more inclusive and safe for use no matter if you're in a smaller or larger environment:

You'll want to ensure that your new accessible garden design allows for seamless and safe movement throughout so that you or your disabled guests are never at risk of falling, getting stuck on sharp corners or putting themselves in harm's way to enjoy the scenery.

Whether you utilise a pram, walking frame, stick or wheelchair, you'll require pathways in your outside space that you can easily and safely navigate around ground-level or raised beds and trees.

An excellent material choice on the market is resin-bound gravel as it is stable, smooth and doesn't hold water due to its permeable nature. Such material is low maintenance and easy to clean, perfect for those who may struggle.

To be more wheelchair-friendly, choosing large format porcelain tiles or slabs for paved areas may be wise, ensuring they are meticulously level and well-laid by a professional installer, with a minimum gap of around 10mm.

Anti-glare paving slabs are ideal for those who may be blind or partially sighted as they are guaranteed to be stable and of non-slip material. If you rely on the wheelchair wheels' power to get around, we suggest you avoid chippings and gravel as the tires could swerve or get caught on little stones and prevent efficient movement. 

It may seem like garden or patio decking with stylish garden furniture is a no-go for those with limited mobility, especially in frosty or wet conditions. However, a vast range of products and other future brands on the market and plenty of decking installation professionals will accommodate all individuals and property types.

Many companies and manufacturers provide tiles and wooden decking boards with non-slip resin strips graded to meet the British Standard PTV rating of 65+, meaning it has an incredibly low-slip potential.

Composite decking around the UK is known to score highly in numerous non-slip tests, making it a fantastic choice for those that desire a more accessible garden design. 

Unfortunately, many timber deck boards are made using synthetic materials prone to mould and algae growth.

You want to ensure that the products you invest in are high-quality with significant wood grain that will increase underfoot friction and make your desired perching spot look more aesthetically pleasing. 

It can be challenging for your accessible garden design to deal with level changes and how best to overcome them; you may require the knowledge of a gardening expert.

Tackling deep, shallow steps is arduous for those with mobility difficulties, so we highly recommend opting for gradual slopes or ramps to solve these problems.

Slight slopes and ramps will also add depth and length to your garden or outdoor space and is the perfect solution; we recommend opting for a gradient no steeper than approximately 1:12 fitted with enclosed walls or handrails for additional support. 

Handrails or handcrafted door handles are the best option to offer reassurance, support and guidance to those who may be disabled or struggle with daily movement. Still, they can also be disguised with beautiful decorations and available in various garden styles to match your accessible garden and add intricate structure.

Many materials are at your disposal, even though strict guidelines about where they must be placed and installed; ultimately, they will enhance your experience and the look of your garden.

Be wary that in the winter, metal is rather cold and uncomfortable to the touch, whilst wood and rope are warmer to hold onto. Wood will need more maintenance to repair and protect, whereas metal is smoother but could rust.

Make sure you consider this, so it may be best to confer with professional installers and with any carers on which material is most suitable. Stainless-steel handrails can come in plastic-coated or polished, powder or brushed finishes, all in a wide selection of colours.

Wrought iron offers robust and industrial rails or decorative ones to choose from. It can be a significant investment to commission a master craftsman; however, in doing so, they can create tailored pieces unique to your garden space and requirements. 

If you're opting for a more accessible contemporary design, perhaps consider neat garden edging designs, as whilst enjoyable to look at, they are incredibly useful to take care of and navigate.

Beautiful longer flat edge paths, curved paths, fence lines and borders help separate and create barriers between various surfaces and aspects of your garden. It makes it easier for wheelchair users to move around, preventing bark chippings from spilling across the pathway, and making it untidy and dangerous.

Those with sight issues or limited mobility with wheelchairs, walking sticks or frames will benefit massively as it will stop them from overstepping the path into their shrubbery. You may utilise raised bricks, traditional rope edging, galvanised steel strips and shaped coping stones. 

Hanging baskets at a manageable height is another common and accessible way to add colour and beauty to your garden and give leeway for a different plant or flower growing opportunity.

They brighten up the wall, pergolas and porch's entire atmosphere and allow for dozens of ways to experiment with various shrub or plant combinations and colour schemes.

Just because they are high, you shouldn't ever feel like you have to miss out on the smallest details that add interest to your outdoor household space.

Many hi-lo systems and tools provide swivel hooks attaching to brackets and baskets, pulleys and ratchets that enable you to raise and lower the basket to your comfort, making the experience more accessible. Such tools will allow you to drip-feed your plants so they may flourish and won't die off. 

Gardening can be a seriously strenuous task, so you'll want to cut down on the efforts of weeding and watering as much as possible. You can do so by dressing borders and containers with layers of mulch of roughly 5cm.

Doing so will successfully reduce the amount of sunlight needed to slow down moisture evaporation and germinate the sowing seeds. Crushed shells, bark nuggets or chips and well-rotted compost will complete the job of ridding the growth of harmful or unattractive weeds.

You can always spruce up your garden, outdoor space or yard with gravel, shingle, crushed concrete or sand as a planting medium, where wildflowers can truly thrive in this environment, making it harder for weeds to establish. 

Growing plants along your garden's fences, walls, trellis or obelisks, you can successfully keep the grass or yard clutter-free.

Still, most importantly, it will prevent disabled individuals from awkward bending or dangerous risks of toppling over. It aids in creating an entirely wheelchair-friendly garden space. You can safely cultivate beautiful leafy backdrops of climbing plants like sweet peas, beans, clematis, roses, thornless blackberries and cucumbers.

Narrow-raised plant and shrub beds around the edge are a fantastic, accessible solution, as long as you ensure to keep it annually topped up with compost and well-rotted manure for a flourishing crop. 

Accessible gardens can obtain some beautifully designed water features that provide an impressive amount of movement on each side, allowing individuals to place reflective water bowls on bare plinths.

You may want to implement a simple water table, water collecting reservoir or stunning freestanding cascade. Decorative water walls or water chutes that fall gracefully into raised pools are also fantastic options.

You may want to ask a carer to contact professionals and see what they can do to help create a stunning water feature to suit your garden. 

It matters not whether you prefer standing or sitting; it can be incredibly worthwhile and convenient to have a tailored work table at the perfect height to avoid any neck or back pain. Many potting tables available throughout UK garden centres and other establishments are typically designed for gardeners to stand at.

Yet, professionals can specifically make these tables' wooden designs to provide wheelchair access that fits their knees underneath. It is adapted with a 'U' shape that allows gardeners to be centrally positioned and carefully manoeuvre or twist their chairs to suit their liking. 

Many perceive lawns as quite a herculean task that requires an immense degree of work to ensure they stay in top-tier condition.

However, there are a few essential shortcuts you can make that will help make the overall design of your garden more accessible and suitable for all guests, disabled or not.

Many people dream of ride-on mowers; they make the job fun, are costly, and minimise the overall effort; however, they would be hellish for a disabled person to attempt to operate. We highly recommend investing in a robot lawn mower.

The machine is designed to sit inside a charging port and make its way, trundling around the garden to cut the grass. They are ideal for not those that don't have a great deal of storage space as they are very small and most suitable for those with small or medium lawns. 

When you create a garden, professionals will encourage you to swap your regular grass for a raised bed so that you don't have to over-exert when dealing with smaller, less demanding surfaces.

We recommend opting for flowers or shrubs that require far less upkeep so that you're not consistently putting yourself in harm's way when completing garden work and regular maintenance on your own greenery.

For example, the clover is a beautiful, durable flower that requires little upkeep and makes such a difference to its appearance. 

You'll want to do whatever possible to take the hassle away from the watering experience with a few easy changes. Please get rid of any water spray guns and swap them out for a lance, meaning you could reach hanging baskets and swinging pots without too much movement and minimal effort.

We also recommend opting for watering cans with an additional control valve that allows you to selectively manage the water flow without hurting yourself by tilting.

You can also invest in small irrigation pipes or systems that allow you to save water and precisely release water into the roots of plants with sprinklers and valves that are remotely controlled. 

Mast or post lights that can be creatively dotted along driveways and pathways will not only add an atmosphere to your stunning garden but also emit a helpful glow that will safely guide you or any disabled guests down towards your home or the end of your garden.

We also recommend implementing neat, intricate wall lights that will allow you or guests to identify gates, entranceways, flowerbeds and retaining beds. Most available contemporary light fittings are easy to retrofit and low voltage.

If it would help your position, there are lighting systems that can be installed so that you can operate them using apps, handsets or with remotes. 

For those in wheelchairs gardening whilst in a seated position, it can be difficult to use more precise tools that are more suited to those that can fiddle and get into different positions to tackle their plant's growth.

They will most likely need tools at arm's length that are lightweight with a comfortable grip. Lightweight tools that offer easy grip will allow disabled individuals to achieve precision.

It can be challenging for those with arthritis or reduced motor control to handle tools designed for gripping or jab and twist motions. Investing in tools with specific types of handles set to a right angle is best to aid control and ease the wrist pressure you may experience. 

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