Safety is a priority in designing a residential driveway that is appropriate for a person with physical disabilities. A driveway’s slope should be less than 15% in order to avoid the dangers that arise from a steep incline. Curves in a driveway can lessen the impact of slope when a driveway must be placed in an area that is long and steep.
A driveway’s slope also determines water drainage. Driveways can be designed like a crown so that water drains to the edges of soil and drainage channels, or graded at an angle that directs water toward street sewers. It is imperative for a person with physical disability to prevent the accumulation of water on the driveway’s surface. Many driveway owners are concerned about water’s harm to the driveway surface. People with mobility impairments need to consider the harm that a slip and fall can do to their bodies.
The slope between a residential driveway and an adjacent sidewalk and street is another critical consideration. The intersection between a driveway, sidewalk and street is a common source of accidents for people with mobility impairments. A level sidewalk space is helpful to all pedestrians, and essential to people who use wheelchairs.
Width is another important consideration in designing a driveway for someone with physical disabilities. In some instances, a driveway needs to be wide enough to accommodate a van or other large vehicle that carries medical equipment. Additional width may be necessary when a power mobility device (e.g. wheelchair or scooter) is being loaded or unloaded.
A wide “turn-around” area for your car at the top of a driveway will help to position your car, and whatever medical equipment you may use, next to the most accessible entrance to your home. This area can alternatively be used for guest parking. (Teenage drivers should be clearly encouraged to park elsewhere, and walk!) If space or expenses make a wide “turn-around” impossible, the driveway should lead your car as near as possible to an accessible entrance to your home. This entrance should be sufficiently wide, and not blocked by steps or other barriers.
The space in which you park your car should provide shelter. A garage offers the best protection from potential weather hazards such as rain, wind and snow. A large, sturdy awning is an alternative. Communication equipment, including a simple cell or car phone, can alert family members or caretakers to your arrival and a need for assistance.
Driveways offer practical and decorative choices in surface materials. Again, in considering the choice of a driveway surface for a person with physical disability, practical considerations are a priority. Textured surfaces can impede the use of mobility equipment or cause a fall, and these factors exclude the use of gravel, pavers, shells, previous concrete, grass, and brick.
Asphalt and concrete are the safest choices for the driveways of people with physical disabilities. Both are durable, and comparatively inexpensive. Asphalt needs somewhat more maintenance than concrete, requiring sealing every 3-5 years. Concrete, a more pliable material than asphalt, is more responsive to the thaw-freeze cycles that characterize weather in the northern portion of the United States.
Materials have been recently developed that homeowners may find more attractive than asphalt and concrete, and that can be safely used on the driveways of people with disabilities. Flat, resin bonded surfacing is one example of a slip-resistant, durable driveway surface that can be easily applied to a driveway surface and safely used under different weather conditions.
People who install and maintain residential driveways have a wide range of credentials. They include formally trained masons who have completed apprenticeships as well as people who learned their trade on the job. Careful consideration should be given to experience that is validated by references because driveway installation for people with physical disabilities can require sophisticated technical knowledge. The person hired should understand issues related to your driveway within the context of adjacent sidewalks and streets, and be familiar with code. Discuss you specific requirements for safety and access as a person with disability.
The equipment and materials used in driveway installation and maintenance can be hazardous. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) receives numerous reports of injuries. Inquire about safe work practices, including protective equipment.Inquiries about insurance coverage are also appropriate.