Designing Accessible Commercial Areas with Timber and Bamboo

Accessibility is a vital consideration for all commercial spaces. Unfortunately, while design and material innovations have evolved greatly over recent decades, many people still face accessibility challenges in built environments.

With over 17% of the UK population classified as disabled or living with a long-term health problem (Office of National Statistics 2021) – consistent and effective accessibility is an essential requirement within our commercial spaces. Among the range of materials commonly used for accessible design, timber and bamboo offer a range of unique and effective options.

In this blog from Gripsure, we explore key factors to consider when creating accessible commercial areas with timber and bamboo, exploring what is meant by accessible design, noting how decking can be used to achieve it, and highlighting the advantages of incorporating accessible design for businesses.

Secure timber and bamboo decking and cladding to support your commercial area – contact us today.

What is Accessible Design?

Accessible design and architecture seek to create buildings, commercial and residential, that can be easily and independently accessed by those with disabilities. Accessible design intends to remove the barriers experienced by those with disabilities to accessing particular spaces and services.

The principles of accessible design go beyond creating commercial areas that simply meet legal requirements, instead creating spaces that are inclusive, inspiring, and respectful. By eliminating physical barriers, those with additional access needs are able to navigate, interact, and engage fully with built spaces.

Accessible design for commercial spaces will take into consideration factors such as:

Universal Design

Universal design is centred around creating spaces and environments that are usable by all people – regardless of age, size, ability, or other access-inhibiting factors.

Physical Accessibility

Physical accessibility pinpoints any access limitations brought about by physical mobility challenges. Design informed by physical accessibility will prioritise features such as ramps, lifts, widened doorways, and accessible toilet facilities.

Sensory Considerations

In addition to physical considerations, accessible design will also take sensory factors into account. This might include the incorporation of visual cues as well as tactile indicators for those with sight impairment. Commercial areas may also consider incorporating auditory signals to maximise scope of support.

Wayfinding and Orientation

Another key factor within accessible design is wayfinding and orientation. These refer to design considerations that make it as simple to move throughout a commercial space as possible. Features might include:

  • Further signage
  • Clear colour
  • Texture contrast
  • Intuitive layouts

Prioritisation of features such as these assists individuals with a range of impairments in navigating through the designed space.

How can Decking be Used for Accessible Design?

Timber and bamboo decking can be used in a range of accessible designs throughout numerous contexts. These include:

  • Boardwalks
  • Walkways
  • Bridges

When designing an accessible timber or bamboo walkway, there are a number of factors to consider, such as the width of walkways, the installation of handrails, drainage and edge boards.

When creating walkways, developers must consider whether a walkway will be one way, or two. They must also consider the likely quantity of traffic that may be directed to the walkway from connecting ones when considering width.

Where handrails are installed, a minimum width of 2000mm is recommended between the handrails and the edging boards. To maximise drainage without compromising accessibility, there should also be gaps no greater than 12mm between each non-slip decking board.

The range of non-slip and bamboo decking available from Gripsure offer an ideal material for accessible walkways and bridges.

Maintaining Your Decking

In addition to being designed and installed with accessibility in mind, it is also essential that developers arrange regular maintenance to ensure all walkways remain usable. An accessible walkway that is unfit for use provides no benefit to individuals with additional access requirements, instead excluding them a given commercial environment.

As well as being great for walkways and bridges, decking can also be used for ramps and gradients. In order to be defined as such, a ramp must feature a gradient steeper than 1:20 (5%), but no more than 1:12 (8%).

A safe and effective ramp will feature a gradual change in gradient, with no sudden or inconsistent variation. As with walkways and bridges, ensuring the decking chosen is non-slip, such as those available from Gripsure, maximises safety and accessibility.

It is also important for designers to ensure no ramp exceeds 10m in length and to note that any ramp over 500mm off the ground will require a level platform. Similarly, consistent checks and maintenance of ramps are essential to maximise accessibility.

What are the Benefits of Employing Accessible Design for Businesses?

Fulfil Legal Requirements and Reduce Complaints

In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 requires shops and businesses to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to maximise accessibility for disabled people. Not only is compliance with this essential to ensure your business avoids fines – it also reduces the likelihood of receiving accessibility-related complaints.

Benefits for Everyone

In addition to maximising accessibility for those with disabilities, accessible ramps and walkways also offer benefits for service users who may have a mobility reducing injury or even those with pushchairs. By maximising accessibility, a business curbs accessibility limitations to all prospective customers – maximising customer numbers and profits.

Public Reputation

In a world where inclusivity is more important than ever, the benefits of accessible commercial spaces extend beyond fulfilment of legal obligations. By offering customers a clear indication that their customer experience is of high priority, businesses convey an affirmative public message about their inclusivity, sensitivity, and commitment to accommodating all customers. This choice not only attracts more customers, but has a positive impact on a business’s overall reputation.

Enhance Accessibility with Decking from Gripsure

Here at Gripsure, we have almost 2 decades of industry experience helping our customers create beautiful and safe spaces for use across a range of industries. Our selection of non-slip decking includes softwood, hardwood, modified timber and bamboo decking – ideal for use in accessible design for commercial spaces.

We’re committed to continuously improving how we operate and are always seeking to achieve the highest environmental, ethical and safety standards. If you’re looking for guidance on timber and bamboo decking and cladding materials for your next building project, get in touch today– we’re always on hand to help!

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