Creating an accessible house might seem like a hard, complicated and lengthy task, but it doesn’t have to be. All you need to do is know where to look for potential problems. Once you locate all the things that could create potential obstacles, you just have to find a way to ensure they don’t occur. These fourteen easy tips will help you get a general idea of what you need to look out for and take care of if you want to renovate your house in order to make it more accessible for people who have to use the wheelchair for moving around.
Install a Wheelchair Accessible Entrance
The first and most important thing you need to do when you are renovating a house to make it more accessible is to fix the first barrier – the home's entrance. Make sure to create a no-step entry with a low threshold of about half an inch. This way you will ensure that getting into the house won't be a long and complicated process. The best option is to go for a 1/20 slope to the entrance of the front door. It is quite gradual and will help reduce the strain you can often experience in your shoulders with steeper ramps. Another thing you should consider is the handicap-accessible door opening. You need to find a wide enough entrance for the size of your wheelchair.
Ensure a Minimum 5-Foot Turning Radius
The next thing you want to ensure is that you have enough space to move around. You want to make sure that you can turn around in the wheelchair without knocking anything valuable over. In most cases, it is enough to ensure a minimum of a 5-foot turn radius. If you want to be sure you have enough space you can go for a 6-foot radius. This is in case you have a larger wheelchair. But in most cases, a 5-foot radius will be enough for you to make a 360-degree turn. Just make sure you have enough turning radius in all areas of your house.
Install a Stair Lift
You want to ensure that you can move through the whole house without any bigger issues. So, if you have stairs in your home, you need to install a stairway lift. Navigating up and down can be very tiring and complicated. And if you happen to live alone it’s an even worse process. It can be a pain in the neck to get up even a few stairs. You constantly have to worry about whether you are even going to make it to the top of the stairs. Installing a stairlift can make a huge difference and make your life ten times easier. It will also help you restore a sense of independence when you need it. You will feel more confident knowing that you don't need anyone's help to get to the second floor of your house.
Install New Flooring
Flooring is another very important factor you have to consider if you want to make your house more handicap accessible. If you happen to have a lot of carpets and rugs all over the house, you should consider replacing them. What you want to go for instead is the hardwood flooring. Even though soft textured surfaces can have some benefits such as dampening the impact of falls, they can cause many other problems. As a matter of fact, they are one of the most common causes of falling in the first place. By installing hardwood flooring you will ensure that you have no unnecessary obstacles in the house. You will be able to move around in the wheelchair much easier.
The next thing you want to do is make sure that you can easily move between the rooms in your house. In most cases, regular-sized doorways are not designed to be suitable for people who need to use wheelchairs for moving around. They are simply not wide enough for wheelchairs. They can really make moving throughout the house painfully hard and complicated. That is why you should consider widening your doorways. It is a small project, but it's worth going through with it. It will regain your freedom of movement.
Replace Your Handles
You might not even notice this, but the types of the door handle in your house do matter. They can make a huge difference if they are not made to suit your needs. If they are not placed correctly it can be hard for you to turn them and fully open doors. You can make this easier for yourself by changing the circular knobs with levers. These are much easier to open and close. The same goes for cabinet drawer pulls in the house. It is usually recommended to go for drawer pulls that can be easily utilized with one hand. One of the best options for better accessibility to go for is the U-shaped kitchen cabinet hardware.
Rearrange Your Kitchen
Making sure that your kitchen has everything it needs while also being accessible and easy to move through is very important. Regular kitchens, much like the rest of the house, are not usually designed to suit people with special needs. Cooking in these kitchens can be a complete nightmare. Now, more than ever when you need proper nutrition, having this kind of kitchen is not the best. You need to rearrange your kitchen so that it can be more suited for your personal needs. Make cooking a pleasant experience that you can enjoy doing daily.
Provide Knee Space under Sinks and Countertops
Another factor most people don't usually think about is the accessibility to sinks and countertops. It can be very hard to use them if there is not enough knee space underneath them. If you have to move around the house in the wheelchair, you need to think about the space for legs and space you would take up when you roll up to the sinks and countertops. If you don't have enough space there, you won't be able to use the sink and other countertops in your house. Creating enough space for your legs in places like these is a huge game-changer when it comes to moving around the house.
Lower Light Switches & Controls
Another small detail that is often overlooked is the position of light switches, thermostats, and other important home controls. They tend to be placed high off the ground, which is a problem. It is recommended to go for light switches that are positioned at 48” off the ground. This way it will be much easier to turn them on from a sitting position. However, moving light switches around the house is not the easiest task out there. That is why getting the professionals to do the job of relocating the switches for you is the best option.
Convert to a Curbless Shower with Channel Drain
When it comes to your bathroom, there is one very important adjustment you need to make in order to create a more easily accessible bathroom. For your own safety, the best option you could go for is to convert to a no lip, curbless shower. It will allow you to roll right into the shower in your wheelchair. A channel drain is also very important for your safety. Channel drains have one important benefit. They will be able to get water out quicker, therefore making the showering process much safer for you. Also, these accessible showers are large enough to allow a caretaker or a professional to get in as well if you need assistance.
Build a Wheelchair Ramp
In addition to what has already been mentioned at the beginning, installing a ramp at the entrance of your home is very important. You might find it useful even if you don't have to use a wheelchair to move around. Installing a rubber ramp for wheelchairs will help you get around easier. It will be a less complicated and stressful task to get into the house with this useful addition to your entrance.
Install Grab Bars
Another thing you should consider for your bathroom is installing grab bars within your reach. A bathroom can contain potential falling hazards more than any other room in your house. So, installing grab bars can make a huge difference and ensure your safety in the bathroom. They come in various different shapes and styles that can match your bathroom design. For instance, grab bars near the toilet can also be made to serve the purpose of toilet paper holders. The good news is they are very easy to install.
Install a Toilet Riser
Another great addition to your bathroom is a toilet riser. If you happen to have trouble bending over or standing up and sitting down, installing a toilet riser can really help you. They are easy to purchase. You can even find them in your local drug stores. They are also very affordable. The usual price of a toilet riser is around $50.
Create a Handicap-accessible Yard
Lastly, you also need to make sure that the exterior of the house is handicap-accessible as much as the inside of the house. Consider adding paths and raised beds or hanging plants that will make the yard more accessible to you. You need to create a firm surface that’s level in order to be able to move around in your wheelchair. Also, edging the paths in the yard will do a great job of keeping people on them and plant life off them. All this will ensure that you can enjoy spending time outside getting the fresh air your body needs. You won’t have to worry about potential falling hazards or obstacles you might otherwise find when moving around in the backyard.
All things considered, there are many aspects and details that need to be taken into consideration if you want to make your house more accessible. You need to pay attention to details and think in advance about all the things that could potentially make it more difficult for you to move around the house. All in all, you have to make sure that each and every room is designed to fulfill your personal needs while making sure that you are as safe as possible in the comfort of your own home.
Image credit: BeatriceBB