Universal Design: Barrier-free Landscapes


Ah, the sweet smell of Spring is in the air signaling that it's time to get outdoors and tidy up the landscape. Gardening is one of Corinne Gail Interior Design's favorite subjects to explore and share with our readers.  As I always say, gardening is truly green therapy; there is no better way to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate the soul than by spending time in the garden. Unfortunately for those with limited flexibility, mobility, and sensory impairments, spending time in the garden is not always easy and, at times, can be impossible.  A study conducted in 2011 concluded that almost 50% of gardeners have trouble bending or have limited flexibility while a quarter of those gardeners polled experience difficulty walking.  Sadly, those statistics translate into people not being able to spend time enjoying the benefits of green therapy (cue my sad face).  However, I thought I'd share tips for tidying up landscaping and creating garden spaces that all ages can enjoy, even those with physical limitations.

Houmas House Plantation, New Orleans, LA Photo courtesy of DCoop Media.

Getting Around

Start by clearing pathways of fallen debris and weeds.  Make sure that brick, concrete, and stone walkways are free from tripping hazards such as lifted edges, cracks, or loose  and unstable pavers.  If a new pathway is on your landscape to-do list, design the path to be at least three feet wide, providing enough width for two people or a wheel chair to comfortably maneuver.  Also, a non-slip material such as textured concrete or decomposed granite and crushed stone can work well in all weather environments, but most importantly, make sure that the surface is level, firm, and with little or no slope.

Oak Alley Plantation, New Orleans, LA.  Photo courtesy of DCoop Media

Think Above Ground

To aid those with bending or flexibility issues, consider installing an above ground garden.  There are many types and styles to choose from.  The folks at Mobile Grow have an ingenious, attractive vertical system suitable for displaying spots of color or as an easy to reach vegetable garden.  For gardeners with trouble standing or needing wheelchair accessibility, check out the TERRAform raised bed available through Tree Hugger!

Vertical gardening by www.mobilegro.com


Terraform French Raised bed gardens. www.treehugger.com

Keep it Moving

I can't forget about container gardening, a perfect solution for small spaces such as patios, lanais, and apartment balconies.  Containers can be easily rearranged, placed on tables, or organized to create an entire garden collection - as large or small as you desire.  Be creative with your container gardening, and remember, if it holds water, you can garden in it.





Everyone should be able to enjoy the healthful benefits of green therapy.  Who do you know that is in need of a barrier-free landscape this Spring?  Please share our tips for tidying landscaping and creating garden spaces that all ages can enjoy, even those with limited flexibility, mobility, and sensory impairments.

Happy Gardening, Happy Spring!

Corinne Gail

Corinne Gail Interior Design did not receive compensation for this post. All images copyright Corinne Gail Interior Design unless otherwise noted and may not be used without permission.