Replacing paths in Hythe to improve disabled access

Case study – Equality Act compliance

Collier Stevens, Chartered Surveyors were appointed by Hythe Town Council to design and oversee the reinstatement of footpaths to the Oaklands public open space in Hythe, Kent.

The existing paths were laid in the mid-70s and were constructed of broken paving slabs, they had become misaligned and dangerous with numerous trip hazards and lifted slabs which made passage difficult if not impossible for wheelchair users and the ambulant less-abled.

The situation was worsened as the open space incorporated a sensory garden which was originally designed with raised beds specifically to benefit wheelchair users, access to this area (which was also paved in broken slabs!) was by a steep ramp with double gradients.  The paths and ramps did not meet best practice for Equality Act compliance in anyway and disabled access needed to be improved.

How we improved disabled access

  • Designed replacement paths finished in a smooth red asphalt with a contrasting kerb
  • Arranged for the ramp into the sensory garden to be re-graded and to fall one way only – we couldn’t quite get the ramp down to 1:15 because the existing site environment precluded this.
  • Widened the main path to 1800mm as recommended by BS8300 and added passing places for wheelchair users to the narrower path.
  • Repositioned bins and benches to improve accessibility and added wheelchair standings adjacent to benches.

We were unable to remove the bollard to the main path as this is necessary to protect the rout form unauthorised vehicle access.

All of the improvements offer benefits to all users of the park whatever their ability or disability.

What BS 8300 says about access routes

It is important to restrict the number of barriers, restrictions or other hazards that disabled people encounter on their approach to and from a building. Low-level bollards and chain- linked posts, for example, are particularly hazardous to blind and partially sighted people.

For disabled people who need a generous amount of space when moving about, the provision of narrow approaches creates difficulties. Uneven surfaces, surfaces of loose materials (for example, unbonded gravel) and large gaps between paving materials cause problems for wheelchair users, blind and partially sighted people and people who are, generally, unsteady on their feet.

Street furniture, flower tubs, litter bins and signposts are all intended to improve the environment but, whether free-standing or projecting from a building, they are hazardous if not carefully designed and positioned.

For blind and partially sighted people, the presence of warnings that can be detected during the sweep of a cane, the absence of projections and overhangs, and good visual contrast with the background, will reduce the risk of colliding with items located along the access route.

More about our Disabled Access Service.

(Originally published by Steve Way, 4 November 2011)