This site uses cookies, for more info on our use of cookies please see our privacy policy

Creating Accessibility

 ACE has received a number of enquiries regarding development of disabled access to sites, to help those looking for design or technical info the following listings have been added.

 English Heritage have produced two new guides (2013), both are available for free, in print and as a PDF download (we have linked to the publications webpage’s) - Easy Access to Historic Buildings and Easy Access to Historic Landscapes. (also available in accessible versions, audio, Braille or large print from English Heritage Customer Services).

 The Fieldfare Trust - Through the BT Countryside for All Project, Fieldfare supported the development of the National Advisory Group, which includes organisations representing people with disabilities, countryside service providers, national agencies and countryside user groups. - Physical Access Standards - Good Practice Guide CD

 DEFRA non-statutory guidance - Defra has already published guidance to authorities on the needs of people with mobility problems in connection with rights of way improvement plans (ROWIPs). Further non-statutory guidance, is now available

 Authorising structures (gaps, gates & stiles) on rights of way (DEFRA) - Good practice guidance for local authorities on compliance with the Equality Act 2010

 Paths for All - Multi-use Paths - Trying to make one path suitable for everyone might be difficult to achieve, the main point to consider is how to allow as many different activities to take place safely.

 Directgov - Equality Act 2010 - From 1 October 2010, the Equality Act replaced most of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). However, the Disability Equality Duty in the DDA continues to apply.

 Disability Wales - Access to the Built Environment - info and links to relevant sites

 Understanding the Defra guidance on Public Path Structures (Gaps, Gates, Stiles, Cattle-grids etc.) PDF - This ‘Understanding’ document is produced by The Pittecroft Trust

 Understanding the British Standard for Gaps Gates and Stiles BS5709:2006 explained PDF - Produced to assist anyone involved with gaps gates or stiles: highways officer, path order maker, land owner, contractor, gate and stile manufacturer, path user and user group. by The Pittecroft Trust (registered charity) and Tom Bindoff

 Good Practice Guide - Gaps, Gates and Stiles - from the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management website

 Guide to Country Gates and Barriers - PDF (from

 Outdoor Access - Sensory Trust - Paths and hard surfaces, Hard landscaping,

 Ramps and slopes, Steps and Handrails.

 By all reasonable means - PDF from The Sensory Trust website

 Easy Access to Historic Landscapes - PDF from The Sensory Trust website

 Developing Accessible Play Space: A Good Practice Guide - The Department for Communities and Local Government

 Dept for Transport -Inclusive mobility (now archived)- Those who are involved in the design, planning and provision of access to the countryside should consult the British Telecom (BT) Countryside for All Standards and Guidelines (1997).

 DoT Access for disabled people - The Department aims to improve transport provision for disabled people – whether as pedestrians, public and special transport users, or motorists – while also improving accessibility in public places.

 Hoggin path construction (commercial site) - Details of hoggin and alternatives as well as details of path construction

 Gates : Design List - from the Scottish Natural Heritage's Countryside Access Design Guide website

 SPECIFICATION NO: 1.6 Entrance specification - Kissing gate - From The Woodland Trust's website

 Public rights of way structures: gaps, gates stiles and bridges - A leaflet produced by Cumbria County Council

 You may also find the following of interest

 Centre for Accessible Environments - (CAE) is the UK's leading authority on inclusive design. We aim to help secure a built environment that is usable by everyone, including disabled and older people.

 Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors - I’DGO is a research project focused on identifying the most effective ways of shaping outdoor environments inclusively. We support the needs and preferences of older people and disabled people, always seeking to improve their independence and overall quality of life.

 Paths for all have also produced a pdf download '6.5_Making_Interpretation_Accessible_to_All' giving suggestions for accessible Interpretation Panels etc.

 Making your project accessible for disabled people - PDF -from the Heritage Lottery Fund -

 Planning and access for disabled people: a good practice guide

 Design guidance - Ramps from the Centre for Accessible Environments

 Inclusive mobility - Department for Transport

Visit England - Providing Access for All - has a range of guidance, tools and resources to help you provide access for all, such as - write an Access Statement, Make some quick and low cost improvements and promote your accessibility

 Tips on garden design for all disabled gardeners from

   A few personal thoughts on access

 Below are some examples of what to avoid.


      img of bench on rough high bank        img of bench placed down steps below path

 these benches were positioned to offer a wonderful view - unfortunately the less mobile would find it difficult to appreciate this - the first placed on a rise above the path (it could have been gently ramped) - the second steps down from the path to the bench (it could have been set back from the path with level access)

 Some positive things to consider - the addition of accessible fishing 'pegs'

       img of accessible path and fishing peg      img of disabled angling pegs

 These were taken at a local nature reserve where the council had provided a level well constructed path and fishing positions along one side of a small lake specifically for disabled anglers.

 There is usually a need for a gate or some other restriction to prevent livestock from escaping from an area or to prevent unauthorised use such as the riding of motorbikes or horses. Please remember any barrier could also impact on access by wheelchair and mobility scooter users, families with buggies and pushchairs and those who are less mobile. The use of 'accessible gates' with RADAR keys provides one solution however bear in mind that these keys are generally only held by 'Blue Badge' holders, not necessarily all disabled people or families with buggies.

 On 'Multi User' trails which generally have been created as cycle routes thought should be given to how wheelchair and mobility scooter users can reach and negotiate the access / exit points. I would also urge the consideration of regular seating, picnic areas having tables accessible by wheelchairs and the height and position of interpretation panels to be accessible. One other thing to think about is the view from a wheelchair, if the trail is bounded by hedges or fences the wheelchair user may well not be able to view any of the surrounding countryside, where possible the provision of vantage points should be considered.

 On completion of your accessible site there is one important action which unfortunately is often not treated with due priority - the publication of information about accessibility to the site. I would like to see 'accessibility' info provided on all site descriptions, publications and publicity material as a matter of course - at a minimum a simple "this site is / is not accessible to wheelchair users" statement would be a start. Knowing somewhere is not accessible is sometimes just as useful as knowing it is.

 My personal preference is for the following to be published

 Wheelchair / Buggy accessible a simple Yes or No - No Wheelchair access but OK for robust buggies.

 Gates / Barriers - Details of gates - are they 'accessible kissing gates' are there restriction such as 'not able to take large mobility scooters' or RADAR key required

 If RADAR keys are required - is there provision at the site for one to be borrowed?

 Type of path surface - tarmac, concrete, natural grass, unmade earth, hoggin, etc. and any issues like 'very muddy in wet weather'

 Details of the terrain - gentle slope, generally flat, 1:20 incline over 20 metres, includes short steep section not suitable for manual wheelchair use without assistance, etc.

 Distance of accessible section / path - fully accessible 4 miles circular route, 800 metre trail linear route, good path for 3/4 mile then grass for 1 1/2 miles to complete circuit.

 To round up - a general description - Accessible trail - 3 mile circular trail, 4 kissing gates (suitable for wheelchairs / buggies but not large mobility scooters) path mainly tarmac or compacted crushed limestone. Generally flat with a gentle rise for 200 metres about half way. Benches every 100 metre for first mile to picnic area ( 2 tables accessible by wheelchairs) occasional seating from then on.

 The use of symbols to denote accessible features - I am not a fan of using symbols as a general description. I agree that they are useful on maps and can be of use as a guide on the cover or heading of a leaflet or web description but if used as a general description in place of a narrative then there must be a key and explanation of all the symbols used - and I think if you are going to do that you may as well put in a narrative description, this can always be backed up by symbols if that is part of the 'look and feel' of your design.

 Symbols such as the international disabled symbol which is generally understood can be effectively used - however there are many being used that have no recognised meaning and so can be ambiguous or even confusing. I am also sure I have seen a site displaying a wheelchair symbol where the walk started over a stile, I guess the car park and visitor centre was accessible - published material with a good description would leave no doubt about what is and what is not accessible.

 One last point - I am a great believer in planners and managers getting first hand knowledge and experience, before embarking on a project I would recommend that the views and suggestions of wheelchair users or user groups be sought. Learn from those who have already completed similar projects, what worked and what didn't.

 Now probably my most controversial suggestion, if you are able bodied and responsible for a project to deliver 'accessibility' put yourself in a wheelchair for a day and see how much you learn from the experience, it may just change your perspective. If you are designing a new trail visit one in a wheelchair and see it from that view, see how the access and general design work or don't before you commit to a plan delivered on paper, from an able bodied person that views the world from 2 metres high and has put it together from design guides and specifications sheets. In fact I believe the whole design team would benefit from the experience of viewing a similar project from a wheelchair but that is just my point of view.

 I hope the above is useful. Neil Pedley - Accessible Countryside for Everyone

 OK how about a test? What is wrong with the following?

 photo of good path photo of a squeeze post


OK, on the left a well made path, good surface, no overhanging vegetation, but there is no seating - for families with young children as well as the less mobile seating is important. - On the right a squeeze post - to slow down cyclists I think but no help if you are on a large mobility scooter! (and I did check the gate at the side did not have a RADAR lock)