5 Steps to Make Your Home Wheelchair Accessible
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20% of Americans live with some kind of physical disability. Of these, about 2.2 million depend on a wheelchair to get around and complete their daily tasks. That can be a challenge. Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people in wheelchairs still contend with public buildings, or areas within those buildings which are not accessible. Unfortunately, for far too many, this is even true in their own homes.
The good news is that there are some relatively simple modifications and adjustments you can implement to make your home fully accessible to your wheelchair. Here are the 6 most important:
- Build ramps at each home entrance: most homes have sufficient room to accommodate a wheelchair ramp for each entrance—if your home does not, you could consider the alternative of installing a vertical platform lift at each entrance. (Although it’s possible for some people to complete this work themselves, it’s usually best to work with a full-service contractor who has experience in accessibility design.) Make sure each ramp is wide enough to easily accommodate your wheelchair. It’s also a good idea to include handrails, as well as a non-slip surface and a cover.
- Install a stairway lift for each stairway: if you live in a two-story house and are considering moving because you can’t navigate stairways, consider the less extreme option of installing either vertical platform lifts or stairway lifts at every staircase in your home. Stairway lifts should swivel to make it easy to get in and out of the chair. It’s also important to find a lift solution which operates even when your home loses power. This simple change will increase your confidence and feeling of independence.
- Make floors and thresholds easy to move over: the problem with some floors in your house could be thick carpets and rugs that make it difficult to move around easily, or thresholds that are difficult to move over. The best solution is tile or hardwood floors throughout your home, but you could also opt for low-pile carpeting. If there are thresholds which pose an obstacle, install short rubber ramps. You should also remove any exposed cords on the floor.
- Widen any narrow doorways: you shouldn’t need to avoid any rooms in your house simply because the doorway is too narrow for your wheelchair to fit through. Widening doorways will ensure that you can move easily to every room in your home. The process involves removing doorway frames, taking the doors off and, in some cases, reversing how a door opens. You should also lower every doorknob or, alternately, install automatic door openers. Again, this is work you might want to hire a contractor to handle for you, because getting it right is important.
- Make your bathroom accessible: bathrooms can be extremely challenging for people in a wheelchair. For one thing, bathrooms are typically the smallest room in the house, making it difficult for people in wheelchairs to move easily from one location to another. In addition, there’s the challenge of getting into and out of a bathtub. You should consider installing a walk-in bathtub. If you use a shower, it might be necessary to lower the shower threshold. In situations where the bathroom is very small, you might need to have a contractor increase its size for you.
- Make your kitchen accessible: the kitchen is probably the busiest area of your home, one where you need easy access to countertops, sinks and appliances. To make your kitchen fully accessible, consider lowering your countertops and ensuring that all appliances are easy to reach and operate. You might also want to install roll-out storage units and sinks that you can roll your wheelchair under.
You Deserve a Home That’s Fully Accessible
Above all, being in a wheelchair should never mean that you need to compromise or settle for half-measures. You deserve to enjoy the same access to your home—and everything in it—that everyone else has. That means making sure the modifications you make are done right, and that they’ll last for a lifetime.
To learn more about the ways our accessible and universal design solutions can make your home fully accessible and increase the quality of your life, contact us today.