These days there are many ways to make one’s home accessible for a physically disabled person. They can range from major – and expensive – reconstruction projects like lowering all of the cabinets or installing a walk-in shower to simpler and less expensive items like putting grab bars in the bathroom.
EasyLiving Home is a voluntary certification program that encourages builders to incorporate elements to make the home accessible to someone with a disability. Such elements include an entry that has no steps, doorways large enough to permit wheelchairs, and rooms with enough space for someone to easily maneuver a wheelchair. Houses with multiple stories can earn EasyLiving Certification if they are designed to have all of the most commonly used rooms on the main floor to minimize the need for using steps. Methods for making a house more accessible to a disabled person can include the following:
Simply getting into the house can be a challenge for someone with mobility issues. As a rule of thumb, a doorway has to be at least three feet wide in order to accommodate someone using a wheelchair or a wide walker. French doors are one possibility and can be used to replace sliding glass doors. Door knobs can be replaced with handles or levers that are easier to grip and manipulate.
Doorways also need to have low thresholds that are no higher than ½ an inch in height. The thresholds should also be rounded or sloped to make it easier for the wheelchair to go over them. If the threshold is over ½ inch tall, the homeowner will need to install a ramp. Not only will a ramp make it easier to admit someone with a wheelchair, it will also prevent people from tripping over the threshold and falling.
Navigating the bathroom can be a huge problem for a disabled person, since it is often wet and slippery. Bathrooms also tend to be small, which makes it hard for someone with a wheelchair or walker to move around them. A person with a mobility aid will need a bathroom that provides at least 60 inches of maneuvering space in addition to the space taken up by the various fixtures. One relatively cheap and easy way to increase the space within the bathroom is to reverse the swing of the door so it swings outward rather than in. Another possibility is to remove the door altogether and replace it with a curtain.
Similarly, if the sink has a cabinet below it, the doors should be removed to increase space and make it easier for the wheelchair user to approach the sink. Removing the doors will also make it easier for the wheelchair user to reach the cabinet’s contents, according to Safe Home Pro. Replacing the sink and cabinet combination with a pedestal sink, if possible, would give the wheelchair user even more room to maneuver in the bathroom.
Grab bars are a common addition to a bathroom. They are installed in the bathtub and shower and around toilets to help someone maneuver around the bathroom. Safety treads can be added to the floor of the bathtub to reduce the risk of someone slipping and falling.
3) Closets and cabinets
Closets and cabinets can pose a large problem for people with physical disabilities. In too many cases, they are either too high or too low for a disabled person to easily reach. Closets should be designed to have shelves, drawers, hooks and hanging rods that a wheelchair user can easily reach. Walk-in closets, like bathrooms and other rooms need to be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
Moving cabinets to make them accessible to a wheelchair user is an admittedly expensive and difficult proposition. Dishes and other items that are most commonly used should be kept in the cabinets the wheelchair user can most easily reach. The cabinet doors can be fitted with hinges that open to 180 degrees, which gets them out of the way of walkers and wheelchairs.
Reachers are a relatively inexpensive device that a disabled person can use to grab items from the floor or someplace up high without bending down or straining to reach. They come in many types and sizes, and some are adjusting or telescoping. Different reachers have different weight limits; some are designed to pick up only light items, while others can be used to pick up heavier objects. Reachers of any type should be kept near the cabinet or closet for ready access.