Improve Access to Facilities

A person in a wheelchair in a crosswalk in Madison, Wisc.Cities and towns should be accessible to people of all abilities. This includes pedestrians using wheelchairs, pedestrians with vision loss, and older adults with limited mobility. While all design guidance and problem solutions recommended for pedestrian travel apply to those with physical disabilities, other details become important as well.

A draft of the Access Board's proposed guidelines includes details such as:

  • The maximum slope of a sidewalk, curb ramp or crosswalk
  • Guidance for installation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) which provide audio and tactile indication
  • Signal timing guidance

A blind man uses a white cane to navigate a sidewalk in Volusia, Fla.For pedestrians with disabilities, details matter. A vehicle blocking the sidewalk may be a nuisance to one pedestrian, but becomes an obstacle to a pedestrian using a wheelchair or who is visually impaired. A low-hanging branch can cause injury to someone without vision, and a crack in the sidewalk can be the cause of an injurious fall of an older adult.

A number of items are very important to consider when looking at the mobility needs of all pedestrians. Walkway widths are important (for wheelchair users to pass one another) and the slope of a walking surface is crucial for both wheelchair users and those whose balance is problematic. Curb ramps with truncated domes must be included at intersections and signal timing may need to be adjusted for slower walkers. For details on design solutions for pedestrians with disabilities, see the Facility Design section.

A man in a wheelchair waits to cross a road at the crosswalk in Chicago.The U.S. Access Board has a four-part video series, available through the PBIC YouTube channel, that provides information on access issues and considerations in the design of sidewalks.