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Places to Sit

Why is seating important?

Age Friendly York consulted with residents about getting out and about. A common response from people that were frail, had disabilities or long term conditions was that they needed to rest their legs more frequently. It was not always practical or affordable to go to a cafe every time they needed to break up their journey.

What benches do we already have?

We first thought it was important to understand what benches we already had and what condition they are in and indeed if they are "Age Friendly". We decided that at a minimum benches needed to have a back and arm rest to be age friendly. Since then the York Access Forum was formed and alongside the City of York Council’s Access Offer, York design consultants Mima, have carried out an audit producing recommendations.

Age Friendly York worked with Goodgym York who have run, walked or cycled every street of York inside the outer ring-road.  They have updated an old mapping system and added the option for proposed benches and chatty benches. Information can be summarised from the map on request and provided in an accessible format.

How do I access the map? - go to the Council Mapping System,  click on "street, Roads and Pavements" then click "seats" and zoom in. The purple benches are age friendly and the blue ones are not. The grey ones are those where information needs to be updated. Please send any proposals for new benches to AgeFriendlyYork@york.gov.uk or ring Carl on 01904 554595.

The City of York Council Access Officer, alongside the York Access Forum commissioned an accessible benches report from MIMA. A summarised list of recommendations for an accessible bench include:

  • Information: ensure mapping of seats is available
  • Location: can be requested by residents that require benches to break up their journey. These would be plotted on the map for consideration. Benches should be strategically placed in the city to make access to shops, services and visitor attractions easier.
  • Safety: lighting, sound and line of site, that is clearly visible and not hidden behind corners. Where possible, we would use downlighting as up-lighting creates difficulties for people with visual impairments and reduces the safety of pedestrians at night.
  • Varied heights: between 380mm - 580mm (the lower height to be provided where that are a number of benches in the same area).
  • Back support: at least 300mm in height
  • Armrests: height of 200mm
  • Materials: that do not conduct heat or cold
  • Contrast: Ensure good tonal contrast with background and seating arms
  • Location and microclimate: sheltered from breeze and direct sunlight. Set back from traffic.
  • Environment: avoid creating obstructions with other street furniture or clashing with tactile paving
  • Surface - Seating should be approached on a level surface with no change in level between the path and the platform on which the seating is provided
  • Wheelchair users – there must be a suitable space beside any seating that allows the individual to transfer from their wheelchair onto the seat. Seating should therefore have space at one or both ends to achieve this.

Two accessible benches have been installed on Acomb High Street to obtain resident feedback. For more information go to the City of York Council website page Improvement to Acomb Front Street. Any future recommended benches to be installed by the City of York Council, will first be submitted to the Access Officer to ensure they meet the accessible standards in the MIMA report.

Happy to Chat bench

We recognise that a lot of people in York are struggling with lack of social contact. This can have a significant impact on someone's mental and physical wellbeing. We also recognise that not everyone feels comfortable with talking to someone they do not know and wanted to create more opportunities for conversations. The Happy to Chat bench is a simple idea and involves a community worker tying a happy to chat sign to a bench and encouraging people passing to come for a natter. We are now at the next phase of the project which is to have permanent plaques on benches. Age Friendly York has created a check list for identifying suitable benches.

Our first two permanent happy to chat benches are:

  • Outside Ged Bell's butchers in Dringhouses
  • On Acomb High Street

If you require a Happy to Chat temporary or permanent sign then please contact AgeFriendlyYork@york.gov.uk

Take a Seat

Older people were telling us that they liked to go to town but their legs are not as good as they used to be. They were telling us that they needed to rest their legs and have good access to toilets. Although there are not many public toilets in York there are many venues that have toilets. We joined up with Home Instead to bring Take a Seat to York. Home Instead signed up over 60 businesses in York who were happy to offer a seat and the use of their toilet even if they are not a paying customer. They have created a map that enables people to plan their journey knowing they will not get caught out.

Last updated: 13/11/2023