1. A landing just outside the door should be wide and flat without any steps to reach.
A 60×60” landing is ideal, to allow all individuals the ability to open the door with ease. Those that use a wheelchair, a walker, or even those pushing carts or strollers often have a difficult time opening doors while resting on a sloped area, which is why landings are safer if they have a max slope of (1:50) in any direction.
Example 1: Here is an ideal example of a front door with a flat landing and no steps to get inside. However, for improved access, the planter on the left could be moved to make it easier for people to open the door.
Example 2: This option we see a lot, but it’s not the most user friendly. Often, ramps are built straight up to an entry door. While it does eliminate a step, it is more difficult to try and open any door while resting on a sloping surface – especially when using a wheelchair. There needs to be a flat landing just outside the door.
2. Covered areas outside doors are helpful conveniences.
A covered area outside each doorway (e.g., a covered porch) is a safe place away from the elements (rain/wind/snow). This feature allows anyone a place to set down packages, find their keys, or even wait in comfort for someone inside to open the door. Check out my post about the one thing you NEED outside your front door.
3. Low and visible thresholds are a must.
Low thresholds are accessible, not to mention safe. Flush is ideal, but 3/4” should be the maximum. No steps.
If you can’t roll a small ball (e.g., a golf ball) over the threshold without a lot of effort, then it’s likely too tall. Just like the ball might stop with the threshold in the way, so will smaller wheels on the front of walkers and wheelchairs. If this happens to someone in a wheelchair, their chair will stop, but momentum will keep their body moving forward, leading to the unwanted potential of launching out of the chair. The same thing applies for people walking through a doorway who might have difficulty picking their feet up.
A threshold with any height should have some contrast in color. Thresholds that blend in may not be easily seen by those that have trouble with vision.
Occupational therapists are trained to look at these little details, especially when there is a health condition in the mix. It’s important to have one on your team as you’re remodeling a space to accommodate people as they age, or if there is a current medical condition. Universal design can be seamless and if done well. You’ll immediately notice increased function of the space because barriers will be eliminated.
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April is Occupational Therapy (OT) Month!
I’m blogging about important universal design tips for the home and community to increase the awareness and importance OT has in environmental modifications.