How to design the area next to the Accessible Benches?

What is the difference between an Accessible Bench and a typical public bench? At first glance, these differences should not be visible, so as not to create the impression of "otherness" of such a bench. There are, however, some universal rules that allow you to create benches that are friendly to people with disabilities, the elderly and everyone else in need, and at the same time comfortable for non-disabled people with various anthropometric dimensions. In a word - benches for everyone.


An Accessible Bench is an additional equipment in public space as a place for rest or recreation. It can be installed outdoors, e.g. in housing estates, parks, green areas, playgrounds, promenades, as well as indoors: at airports, stations, shopping malls, etc. There are also benches in front of offices, clinics, museums, schools etc.


Ergonomics for everyone

What makes one chair more comfortable than another? Ergonomics. When it comes to benches, this is the basis. In the case of an accessible bench, it must be friendly to people with disabilities, the elderly and all those who would like to use it without the risk of back pain and problems with getting up. The differences can be seen primarily in the height of the bench from the ground, as well as in the depth of the seat and its profiling so that the user does not slide off the seat.

The same applies to the backrest of the bench, which is provided with a support for the sacrum and has the appropriate inclination and shape to match the anatomy of the spine. The backrest, unlike standard benches, is not perpendicular to the seat.

The accessible bench must also be equipped with armrests, which not only provide good support and stability while sitting, but are also an important element when sitting down and getting up from the bench and transferring from a wheelchair to a bench. They must be wide and contoured to help use the bench.

In the case of the TERMA Accessible Bench, all requirements were met. In addition, one extreme armrest is made in such a way as to create a stable support place for crutches, Nordic walking poles, walking sticks for the blind and other small mobility aids. The bench is made of composite and HDPE boards that do not require maintenance, are UV resistant and do not lose their color. The frame of the bench is made of black carbon steel, epoxy protected and powder coated in a color from the RAL palette.


Accessible bench in an inaccessible place

A very common mistake is to design a bench available in public space in a way that is unavailable. What does it mean? The space next to the bench is not adapted to the needs of people with different levels of fitness and excludes the possibility of taking a rest. Most often it is related to architectural barriers - high curbs at pedestrian routes, which are not a problem for a non-disabled person, but for a senior or a person with a disability it is. In addition, there is no space next to the bench for a wheelchair, walker or pram. This causes the problem of blocking the communication route, frustration of passers-by and a safety risk when a bicycle, scooter, etc. passes by. Usually, a garbage can is installed directly next to the bench, which makes it impossible to place a trolley in this place, or the area next to the bench is covered with grass or covered with a loose surface, which automatically reduces access.

Not all wheelchair users want to move to the bench. In this situation, providing space next to the bench, with a hardened surface and without curbs, makes it possible to set the trolley with its backrest on the extension of the bench's backrest. In this situation, everyone is sitting equally, next to each other and the differences are not felt because they have the same access to the place of rest. When designing such an area, it is worth remembering because, unfortunately, most of the benches in the public space are not designed properly.


How to design the space next to the bench?

Next to the bench, there should be a hardened surface suitable for people with reduced mobility or using wheelchairs. On one side of the bench there should be space for a wheelchair or a pram. In accordance with the recommendations of the Accessibility Standards issued as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), regarding the method of designing public use places, commercial facilities, state and local government facilities, it should be a space of 915 x 1200 mm, not overlapping the communication route, constituting an extension benches. The bench itself must also be away from the traffic route so that the legs of the seated people do not overlap the pedestrian route.

In spaces requiring long distance travel, seating should be provided at maximum every 30 m.

Source: Projektowanie bez barier – wytyczne, Kamil Kowalski, Fundacja Integracja

There should be no high curbs between the draft surface and the surface around the bench. It is best when both surfaces connect smoothly with each other, without clear divisions. In a situation where a disabled person wants to transfer from a wheelchair to a bench, the presence of any curb will prevent him from being able to drive under the bench sufficiently to safely move from the wheelchair seat to the bench.

A person sitting on the edge of the bench and in a wheelchair next to the bench (if he or she does not feel the need to move to the bench) should feel like sitting next to him and be able to talk freely. The back of the wheelchair should be able to be in line with the back of the bench. The surface of the free space should not be sloped (the maximum allowable slope is 2%) or uneven, it must allow for a stable and safe stopping of the wheelchair.

If a disabled person wants to change to a bench, the seat will be taken by an empty wheelchair and it will not interfere with passers-by walking along the communication route.

The free space next to the bench also makes it possible to put a pram, a walking frame or, for example, a scooter or a scooter.



A common mistake is the location of garbage cans close to the benches. This excludes the possibility of occupying this space by wheelchairs or simply distances people sitting on the bench and people in wheelchairs unnecessarily. Sitting next to a dumpster is also not very pleasant. The garbage can, therefore, should be located either on the other side of the bench or outside the free space.

When it comes to adapting the space to the needs of the blind, it is recommended to use integration warning tiles with dimensions of 30x30 cm along the entire length of the pavement adjacent to the communication route. Thanks to this solution, a blind or partially sighted person will know that they are approaching a place that requires special attention and will not hit the bench while looking for a seat.

Do you want to know more about universal design? Check "Switch" published by Fundacja Integracja!