External areas outside buildings

Access to safe, well-managed green spaces can promote and improve physical and mental health.

Landscaped areas

Where possible, landscaped areas with appropriate circulation space and children's play areas should be provided.

Permeable surfaces and reinforcing systems which can allow grass to grow can provide a firm but free-draining surface. However, the rolling resistance of the resulting surface may make the use of long canes, wheelchairs or buggies difficult. It is also important that the edges of such systems do not present a trip hazard.

The availability of shelter at convenient intervals around the site would encourage more exercise and a healthier lifestyle.

Pedestrian routes near water features such as ponds and fountains should prevent people getting wet. People who are blind or have low vision need to be able to avoid areas where water from fountains is being blown by the wind.

Design considerations

  • Physical and visual links between buildings and landscaped areas should be established. 
  • Encourage access to and circulation around landscaped areas with suitable layouts and links with buildings.
  • Avoid paths with dead ends that lead nowhere.
  • Specify surface treatments that are well drained but which do not restrict the use of long canes, wheelchairs or buggies.
  • Provide shelter at convenient intervals around pedestrian routes.
  • Provide drinking water fountains at convenient intervals that are easy to recognise, understand and use. They should not present a hazard to those who are blind or have low vision. Contrasted and detectable drainage plates extending to align with any projections make them easier to navigate.
  • Provide alternative pathways which allow pedestrians to select their own routes.
  • Provide outdoor play areas for children with a firm slip- resistant pathway to and through playground equipment. Provide inclusive play areas for those who have sensory or cognitive impairments.

Facilities for assistance dogs

Facilities for assistance dogs should be provided wherever possible.

Safe areas for toileting assistance dogs at night are particularly important for motels and hotels. Grass verges of streets cannot be relied upon as they may be removed.

Design considerations

  • Provide areas for toileting assistance dogs.
  • Provide bins for dog waste, and drinking water outlets at convenient locations.

Rest areas, tables and seating

External rest areas, tables and seating should be provided in convenient sheltered locations away from noise and exhaust fumes.

Seating should be provided at frequent intervals and near changes of level for those with limited stamina.

It is important that tables and seating are easily located and recognisable. There should be a clear path to the whole perimeter.

Seating that provides a heel space makes it easier for people to stand up. Seats with backrests are useful for additional support and armrests assist in getting in and out of the seat.

Tables should be available for everyone to use, including those with mobility impairment, large stature or who use wheelchairs. 

Design considerations

  • Provide a range of seating that will appeal to different age groups.
  • Specify table designs that do not require people to climb across beams or other supports in order to reach the seats. Designs should also allow sufficient clearance underneath for wheelchair users to be able to approach and use comfortably. Design should include a detectable feature for long cane users. Contrasting colour should also be used.
  • Set tables and seating on a firm and stable base, flush with the surroundings, that will not obstruct adjacent access routes. 
  • Ensure that tables and chairs are made out of safe materials that will not splinter or be too hot or cold to touch.
  • Provide space by the side of seats for wheelchairs and buggies.
  • Where pedestrians could be expected to use pavements and landscaped areas on the site, provide sheltered seating to protect against both rain and sun wherever possible.
  • Provide waste bins in locations where it will be easy to empty them.
  • All street furniture and other obstacles should be located adjacent to the accessible route and have visual and detectable features for those who are blind or have low vision.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: