Large wheelchair ramp at a commercial building

The Importance of Accessible Design in Today’s World

When entering a store, school, home, or other facility, you may never have questioned whether or not you can physically get into it. But many face this issue every day: people who live with a mobility difference requiring equipment such as a wheelchair or walker, those who struggle with balance, and those with conditions that sap their strength. Navigating the world is more complicated for them, but it shouldn’t have to be. Accessible designs remove those barriers, meaning no one is limited when entering a restaurant, getting safely into their home, or making it to class on time. 

Older buildings were established before accessibility was commonly considered or required, and while newer buildings may have some accessibility design features, that doesn’t mean they’re as accessible as they could be. Let’s discuss the importance of accessible design, what accessible design looks like, how it benefits people, and how EZ-ACCESS® can help create a more accessible space.

Why You Need Accessible Design

What Is Accessible Design?

Accessible design uses floorplans, features, and construction that accommodate all types of mobility. It focuses on creating spaces that allow those with mobility devices to get around without a problem. Accessible design is a broad term that includes ramps, lifts, graded thresholds, and other setups that are used to provide alternatives to stairs or uneven surfaces that could be difficult for someone to navigate. Accessible design should take into account every action a person could take in a space and what limits they may have. A heavy door could be difficult to push or pull, so automated buttons for doors help someone overcome that. In bathrooms, accessible design includes ensuring enough space for equipment or that sinks are low enough for wheelchair users to access. 

Regulations regarding accessibility requirements for businesses and public spaces vary between countries, but in the United States, they are defined through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This federal law prohibits discrimination against people due to disability. The ADA covers a broad range of elements, from employment opportunities to telecommunications and accessibility in environments. These spaces include different types of businesses serving the public as well as private transportation. ADA standards for accessible design around ramps include requirements on how steep a ramp can be, how it should accommodate a change in direction, when handrails are required, and numerous other scenarios. The ADA covers far more than ramps and has extensive guidelines for various buildings and situations that can be accessed on the ADA website

Why Is Accessible Design Important?

Part of the ADA is the removal of architectural barriers that could prevent someone from accessing an area. If the entryway of a building only has stairs, that means those using a wheelchair or walker, or those without the strength to walk up stairs, would be unable to enter. This is an architectural barrier that would need to be addressed with accessible design in order to be compliant. While there are caveats to which businesses and buildings have to meet these regulations, it’s in the best interest of every attraction or store to ensure these mobility barriers are addressed. Creating equal ability for everyone to visit a museum or shop at a store is a social responsibility that extends into improving traffic for a business.

Creating easier ways of getting in or out of a building provides better opportunities for everyone to participate, be independent, and feel seen. Imagine being a wheelchair user who arrived at a restaurant they’d been looking forward to trying, only to have no way of getting up the steps at the front. You’d either have to return home in disappointment or rely on those around you to carry you into the establishment, which could be embarrassing or upsetting.

Disability isn’t always obvious, either. Someone who looks like they have typical mobility may face equal difficulty if there’s no accessibility solution. Many illnesses lead to mobility issues that could leave someone without the ability to step over the threshold of a doorway without falling, or limit balance when negotiating stairs. Even those with a temporary disability benefit from accessible design. A teenager with a broken leg may normally have no trouble getting up the steps into their house but would struggle while relying on one leg and crutches.

How Accessible Design Benefits People and Businesses

Creating accessible spaces isn’t just about following rules and checking a box. Having buildings and spaces that are usable by all provides enrichment to the lives of those in your community. 

Accessibility design may be the difference between living independently versus having to rely on others. Instead of needing a friend, family member, or caregiver to maneuver them up the stairs, a ramp empowers someone to enter and exit their home on their own. This could even be the difference between life and death in an emergency. At a store or business office, pressing a button to open a door is the difference between hoping someone will come by and open it for you versus being able to just go on with your day. 

Buildings with features like ramps and doorway plates help caregivers, too. When pushing a wheelchair or accompanying someone walking with a mobility device, accessible design takes the stress off of the caregiver trying to safely help someone into a space. 

Accessible design allows people with disabilities to spend time with family and friends, feel seen and considered, and be included in daily life. Take bathrooms, for example—if there isn’t one large enough to accommodate a wheelchair (or it lacks handrails), that alone could prevent someone from going out to dinner for their birthday. Accessible design provides people with disabilities the same chance as everyone else to enjoy what the world has to offer. 

How to Create Accessible Design

The first step in making your space free of mobility barriers is looking through the lens of someone who uses assistive devices or has limited mobility. You may notice that certain areas, such as stairs, can be made easier to navigate with specialized equipment designed to provide gentle changes in elevation. The most common element people think of here would be a ramp. Working with a professional when installing a ramp is important to ensure it meets ADA requirements and is properly secured. EZ-ACCESS ramps are constructed using high-quality aluminum to withstand the elements and frequent traffic and were designed to not only meet but surpass ADA rules. Each building is different, so clearly understanding ADA design standards and your space's needs is important. EZ-ACCESS has ramps like the PATHWAY® 3G Modular Access System for residences and the PATHWAY® HD Code Compliant Modular Access System for commercial spaces that are prefabricated and easy to customize to be exactly what you need. ADA access ramp design is something our Customer Service team is happy to help talk you through if you need guidance on where to begin. 

The same goes for curbs and uneven doorways that also act as physical barriers. These may not be as high as a set of stairs, but they still pose limitations to those with mobility differences. Trying to push a walker through an uneven doorway could be a fall risk, so a graded mat or short plate that helps bridge the change in ground height can be an ideal solution. The EZ-ACCESS TRANSITIONS® Angled Entry Ramp is slip-resistant and fits perfectly with adjustable legs that accommodate different height needs. 

Accessible design should also consider adjustments to other interactions in the environment. For example, someone in a wheelchair has a lower reach, so if they approach a reception desk or ordering counter, they may not be high enough to see over the top or reach a screen. Having at least one section of the counter at a lower height provides the ability for someone to order their coffee more easily or check in for an appointment without feeling like they’re talking to a wall. 

Even the space between tables at a restaurant and in the aisles of a store should be laid out with access in mind. A motorized scooter may have a wide frame and a small turn radius, so if the floorplan has limited space, it could create trouble getting around or lead to injury if the person bumps into something. 

Accessible design isn’t an overnight achievement—it takes time, effort, and money to create an environment that eliminates barriers for those with disabilities. The key is to understand what accessible design is, why it is important, and how to create it. By getting started, your building, school, or business becomes an environment that doesn’t turn people with mobility differences away but instead shows them they’re being included. 

Ready to make your world accessible to all? Check out EZ-ACCESS’s ADA-compliant products and contact the EZ-ACCESS team to set you on the right path.

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