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Contributed Article: Transforming Your Garden Outhouse Into An Accessible Year-Round Haven

Posted by Annie Bremmins on June 18, 2019

the image shows a pretty and old greenhouse

Photo by Arno Smit from Unsplash

Transforming Your Garden Outhouse Into An Accessible Year-Round Haven

Today's guest post comes from freelance writer Amy Fletcher, with Extensively Reviewed. Amy writes about the benefits of being outdoors, along with how to make your garden more accessible for everyone to enjoy.

Spending just five minutes in your garden can improve your mood, according to research from the University of Regina. This is good news for the 41% of individuals receiving disability benefit that also have a mental health condition, such as depression. But with the great British summer notoriously known for being unpredictable, it’s a wise idea for disabled individuals to invest in their very own garden outbuilding. This way, whatever the weather, you can reap the benefits of the great outdoors. But first, you’ll need to spend a little time making your outbuilding accessible.

A safe greenhouse

A meta-analysis of gardening studies concluded that gardening can reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders, have a positive impact on BMI, and improve an individual’s quality of life. A great way to garden in all weathers is to install a greenhouse. However, the biggest issues disabled individuals report encountering when shopping for a greenhouse is finding one which is accessible for wheelchair users, the cost of disability-friendly greenhouses, and glass safety.

Greenhouse Stores recommend that wheelchair users install a greenhouse which is a minimum of 8ft wide and has a low threshold base. A low threshold base is a must as it means there’s no step to manoeuvre. Additional consideration should also be given to the type of glass used. Toughened safety glass which is between 3 and 4 mm thick is recommended as when it shatters it breaks into small pieces, thus eliminating the risk of serious injuries.

While you may need to pay out slightly more than average for an accessible greenhouse, you’ll benefit from being able to keep all the tools and equipment you need to grow your own plants, fruit and vegetables in one place. Items such as an ergonomic cultivator and easi-grip trowel will make it easy for you to prepare your plants and beds and put seeds and bulbs in the soil. For optimum ease, you could even incorporate a raised flower bed inside your greenhouse, to limit the amount you need to bend.

Easy access summer house

If gardening isn’t your thing, but you still want to enjoy the garden and nature, then a summer house is the perfect building for you. Despite their name, summer houses can be used all year round, especially if you opt for lighting, heating, double glazing, and insulation. Most summer house owners opt to place their summer house on raised flooring, such as concrete or on decking. However, if you use a wheelchair, you’ll need a flat surface or ramp. This can be created using concrete, or you could purchase a threshold ramp to aid your access.

You’ll also need to consider the types of windows and doors that your summer house has. For easier access, it’s best to select a design with double doors rather than a single one. If you purchase a second-hand summer house or your summer house is several years old, you may find that its windows are stiff. In some cases, this can be treated with some grease. But, when it’s more severe, you’ll need to invest in some new windows to ensure that they’re accessible at all times. It’s also worth considering windows with crank handles to make opening and closing them easier. After all, when you’re exposed to fresh air, as well as the smell of plants in the garden, it can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, according to various pieces of research collated by the Huffington Post. So, to aid your mental health, easy window access is a must.

Transforming your shed

These days, a shed is so much more than a place to store your lawn mower, bicycle, and wheelbarrow. 28% of the British population use their shed for their hobby, according to House Beautiful. Individuals of all ages, abilities, and characteristics enjoy time in sheds. Shed enthusiast, Andrew Wilcox states that “Some people have multiple sheds, his and hers sheds, sheds for the kids… But even if they have a small off-the-shelf shed, they can still create this magical escape… You can open the door and just disappear.” Right now, the male population tends to favour using their shed as a ‘man cave’, which is a space designed specifically for them. A man cave is typically packed full of gaming equipment, sports memorabilia, and gadgets. If you’re a disabled man looking to create a peaceful man cave to retreat to, then your shed could be the ideal location.

Research shows that looking at scenes of nature can ramp up the happy feelings in your body while reducing negative ones, such as fear and stress. As such, when it comes to designing an accessible shed for your needs, be sure to locate your shed in a spot which offers the best view of your garden. Many homeowners choose to place their shed at the bottom of the garden. However, you’ll need to ensure that the pathway leading up to is regularly cleaned, swept and maintained to prevent slips, falls, and issues accessing the shed door. While this is possible to achieve with a quality set of gardening tools designed for disabled individuals, you’ll get to spend much more time doing the things you love in your shed, if you rethink its location. With this in mind, it’s wise to place your shed further up the garden and to the side of your patio, if possible. Of course, you’ll still need to regularly use your easi-grip weeder to eliminate hazards from the ground, but it will be much easier and quicker to maintain.


Accessible safety features

When it comes to using your garden outhouse so that you can appreciate the mental health benefits of your garden in an accessible and disability-friendly way, it’s essential that you consider safety precautions and features. The Electrical Safety Council reports that 58% of people leave the sharp edges of garden tools exposed in their sheds, while 38% confess to leaving unsecured tubs, pots, and bottles of paint, weed killer, and similar chemicals uncovered. It’s vital that all users of your garden outbuilding ensure that it’s kept in an accessible and safe condition at all times. Similarly, you should never be tempted to leave items in this manner in your shed, summer house, or greenhouse. In addition to always taking preventative action, consider installing a panic alarm so that if an accident does occur, you can request immediate assistance.

Summer is the perfect time for individuals with mobility issues to get out and enjoy all that their garden has to offer, especially as the garden can have so many benefits on your mental health. By choosing to invest in an outbuilding in your garden and following these accessibility tips, you’ll be able to spend time in your garden whenever the mood takes you and, ultimately, this will improve your quality of life.

Thank you to Amy for her contribution! To help make your garden more accessible, view our full range of gardening products here.