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Maintaining Accessibility: A Guide to Upkeep of Physical Features


Physical accessibility is elemental to the goals of equity and access for all. From ramps and elevators to automatic doors and wheelchair lifts, physical accessibility features remove barriers to access, empowering individuals with disabilities to navigate their environment independently and safely. However, it’s not enough to merely install these features; they require regular maintenance to remain functional, reliable, and accessible.

This article provides an overview of maintaining various physical accessibility features. Each feature has its own challenges for ongoing maintenance, whether it’s the mechanical complexity of an elevator or the detailed considerations of tactile paving. We’ll provide actionable tips and best practices to ensure these essential components of accessibility are kept in optimal condition.

As a society, we have a responsibility to ensure that accessibility is a continuously maintained condition. The upkeep of these features is just as important as their implementation. Keeping accessibility features up to standard creates a more inclusive and accessible environment for everyone.


These essential accessibility features enable people with mobility challenges to navigate level changes. Regular maintenance checks involve ensuring that the surfaces remain free of cracks, debris, obstructions, and slippery substances such as ice or water. Additionally, if the surface material is not intrinsically slip-resistant, consider the application of a non-slip coating. The ramp’s slope should also be checked periodically to ensure it hasn’t shifted or eroded over time due to weather conditions or continuous usage. Any issues should be promptly addressed to maintain the ramp’s usability and safety.


Elevators are crucial for enabling mobility between floors, especially in highrise buildings. Regular inspections and maintenance are necessary for their proper functioning and user safety. The mechanics of the elevator, including the cabling, pulley systems, and door mechanisms, should be inspected for signs of wear and tear. Controls and indicators, such as car arrival tones, lighted indicators, and tactile signs and buttons, must be kept in working order. Lubrication of moving parts can prevent breakdowns and worn-out components should be replaced promptly. The functionality of the emergency call function and alarm systems should also be checked during every maintenance session.

Automatic Doors

These doors, which are vital for people who cannot easily operate manual doors, should be regularly inspected to ensure they are functioning correctly. Approach sensors must be cleaned and checked to ensure they detect movement accurately. If an opener button is provided, it should be checked for functionality at regular intervals. Regular preventive maintenance can avoid malfunctions that could potentially cause injury or impede access. Also, the timing of the doors’ opening and closing should be checked to ensure it provides sufficient time for users to pass through safely.

Wheelchair Lifts

These lifts, often found in areas where ramps or elevators aren’t viable, require routine maintenance. Check for worn or damaged parts, and ensure all safety mechanisms, like safety belts and emergency stop buttons, are in place and working. Regular cleaning can help keep mechanical parts moving smoothly. Regular testing should be done to ensure the lift operates smoothly, quietly, and safely.


Handrails, whether they’re by staircases or ramps, should be inspected regularly for stability. Any loose sections should be tightened or replaced, and any corrosion or material degradation should be addressed immediately. Regular cleaning can prevent the buildup of dirt or other materials that might reduce grip and increase the risk of slips and falls.

Accessible Restrooms

Accessible restrooms require regular cleaning and checks for any issues with accessible features, such as grab bars, lower sinks, and wider stalls. It’s also essential to ensure that automatic features like auto-flush toilets or sensor-based faucets are in working order. Roll-under sinks should be kept clear of obstructions, and the floor should always be kept dry to prevent slip hazards. A common problem in accessible restrooms involves post-construction obstructions: waste bins, dispensers, changing tables, chairs, and other items placed in a way that impedes access to one or more features. Vigilance is required to ensure that this does not happen.

Tactile Paving (Detectable Warnings)

Tactile paving or ground surface indicators help visually impaired individuals navigate spaces. Regular inspection and cleaning are necessary, and any damaged or worn-out tiles should be replaced promptly to prevent tripping hazards. The path should always be kept free of debris that can interfere with the tactile features or obstacles that can be hazardous to users.


All signs, especially those featuring Braille or tactile characters, need to be clean and clearly legible at all times. Regular checks should ensure the signs are not obscured, damaged, or faded, and replacements should be made when necessary. If Braille characters are worn down, they should be replaced promptly to ensure readability for visually impaired individuals.


Accessible parking spaces must be clearly marked, with regular re-striping to keep markings and symbols highly visible. These spaces should also be kept clear of obstacles, and the accessible path from these spots should also be maintained. Ensure that the access aisle is kept free for wheelchair and mobility device users. A common issue with accessible parking spaces is slope changes in parking stalls or adjacent areas caused by settling or wear of asphalt. These slopes need periodic inspection to ensure they remain within acceptable limits.

Accessible Routes and Pathways

Regular checks should be conducted to ensure that all routes and pathways meant for people with disabilities are free of obstructions. Check for uneven surfaces, cracks, or excessive slopes caused by settling, and fix them immediately to maintain a smooth and safe passage.


A regular accessibility audit should be integral to every facility maintenance schedule. In addition to this audit, collecting feedback from users of these facilities can provide critical insights into issues or obstacles they might encounter, leading to continuous improvement and refinement of these features. Together, these measures help detect potential problems early and contribute to improvements, creating a more inclusive and accessible environment.

The value of accessibility features in our buildings and public spaces is immeasurable. They provide a crucial lifeline of independence and ease of access for individuals with disabilities. The importance of regular maintenance of these features cannot be overstated. Just as a car needs tune-ups and oil changes, accessibility features require routine checks and adjustments to stay functional and safe. The guidelines and tips in this article can serve as a starting point toward ensuring that accessibility features continue to serve their purpose effectively and provide a safe and accessible environment for everyone.

In a world striving for inclusivity, effective maintenance of accessibility features is a step towards creating an environment where everyone can navigate freely and independently, regardless of their physical abilities. Let’s uphold the principle of accessibility in implementation, continuous upkeep, and improvement.