As summer approaches and it becomes lighter later in the evening, more people choose to spend time outside in their yards. The Oregon Department of Human Services convened a research group of experts to develop a manual to assist community providers of services for persons with developmental disabilities.
Of particular interest as we begin using the outdoors more are some design considerations in walkways, steps, fencing and yards. Their primary interest was homes that are occupied by persons with developmental disabilities. Some of the considerations that they have suggested are:
- Design considerations of home exteriors must address the entrance and exits of both staff and residents.
- Transfers and transitions require careful management of ramps, thresholds, steps, parking areas and walkways.
- Eliminate stairs whenever possible
- Provide handrails at all risers, maximum height 33 inches
- Provide guardrails on all elevated surfaces, minimum 42 inches
- Sidewalks 60 inches plus wide are ideal, 36 inches wide are a minimum. Infill inside corners at turns
- Maintain level grade and transitions between all walking surfaces and surrounding areas
- Provide adequate lighting along all walking areas
- Keep lighting low and diffused
- Maintain all walking surfaces with regular cleaning and inspection
- Provide for drainage to keep water from accumulating on walking surfaces
- Changes in surface texture, material or color accentuate transitions
- Provide a storage place for tools, hoses, outdoor furniture and equipment
- Fencing needs to be designed to address the privacy and security needs of the home
- Fencing must not prevent residents or staff from reaching a safe zone in the event of a fire
- If smoking is permitted on the premises:
- Provide fire suppression equipment
- Address second hand smoke issues
- Covered loading areas are desirable
- Provide protection for staff and residents from vehicles entering walks - you may use curbs, bumpers, posts or rails
Providing a safe, private, comfortable yard can only enhance the quality of the outdoor experience.