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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 produced two guides in 2015, both are available for free, in print and as a Archived PDF download - Easy Access to Historic Buildings and Easy Access to Historic Landscapes

The Fieldfare Trust (Now closed down) produced a PDF with the BT Countryside for All Project "Countryside for All Good Practice Guide" this contains useful information for planning and delivering accessibility to sites, it is available to download from our archive Click here

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) Archived PDF download - 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 - also see Outdoor Access Design Guide 2017 Archive PDF download

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 - Way To Go Toolkit - to equip planning officers, and disability and access organisations,with the practical tools to work together to ensure a fully inclusivebuilt environment in Wales

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

Understanding the British Standard for Gaps Gates and Stiles BS5709:2006 explained Archived 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

Guide to Country Gates and Barriers - Archived PDF (from

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

Ramps and slopes, Steps and Handrails.

By all reasonable means - Archived PDF, taken from The Sensory Trust website

Easy Access to Historic Landscapes - Archived PDF taken 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 Published 15 December 2005 (now archived) A guide to best practice on improving access to public transport and creating a barrier-free pedestrian environment - 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).

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

Paths and tracks - from the Scottish Natural Heritage various publications can guide you through the stages of route planning, material selection, construction techniques and maintenance for paths and tracks

Public rights of way structures: gaps, gates stiles and bridges Archived PDF download - 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. - Archived PDF download

Making your project accessible for disabled people - Archived PDF download - taken from the Heritage Lottery Fund website

Planning and access for disabled people: a good practice guide Archived PDF download

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)


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