Accessibility Tip of the Week

Pathways to widening your audience.

  • Summary: Provide clear, accessible paths to products, service counters, restrooms, fitting rooms, meeting rooms and other important spaces.
  • Who it helps: Individuals who use wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters.
  • Additional benefits: Individuals pushing carts and strollers as well as anyone carrying large boxes and other items can get around more easily.

Here is a scenario that, sadly, is all too familiar. A local coffee shop buys its supplies in bulk and needs a place to store the large boxes. The manager notices that the hallway to the bathroom is extra wide. There seems to be room to store the excess inventory right in the hallway outside the bathrooms.

Unfortunately, this coffee shop manager didn’t consider that those hallways are extra wide for a reason. The extra space allows wheelchair users and other to maneuver. By storing extra inventory in the hallway, the manager is blocking mobility-impaired individuals from using the bathroom.

When you are considering the hallways and pathways in your facility, keep them clear and at least 36 inches wide.

Wooden chairs in front of the hallway to the bathrooms.
These chairs make look inviting, but to people in wheelchairs, walkers or pushing a stroller, they are a barrier to entry.

What can I do?

Here are a few things you can do to make sure your hallways and pathways are available for everyone to use.

  • Starting at your entrance, walk through your space. Move any boxes, crates, carts, tables, chairs, etc. that are blocking pathways. Pay special attention to service counters, restrooms and other highly used areas.
  • Remove any items stored or placed in extra space near doors. Those spaces near doors allow individuals in wheelchairs to pull open the door while maneuvering out of the way. It is tempting to use them as storage, but they need to be clear to maintain accessibility.
  • A great way to simulate the amount of space needed is to use a yardstick. Hold it level to the floor at waist level or lower and walk around. If you can keep it level and move to important locations without bumping the yardstick, you likely have wheelchair accessible pathways. While this is a bit of a simplification, it is a good first step to supporting wheelchair navigation.

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If you are promoting accessibility within your organization or community, sending out easy-to-understand tips can be a helpful addition to your strategy. You are welcome to share the tips here under the mentioned Creative Commons license, as long as you cite Accessible Community as your source.