Many homeowners purchase their house or condo without thinking about physical accessibility. A sudden illness or change in disability status can refocus the lens through which you see your home. The stairs that you glanced over with ease may turn into Mount Everest. Thankfully there are a number of ways to improve accessibility. Consider how mobility adaptations can help you today or set you up to age in place.
1. Widen Step-Free Doorways
Getting to the front door and over the threshold is crucial. Immediate accessibility tells disabled people with mobility needs that they are welcome in the home of non-disabled people, too. Many disease processes can affect the body and create a need for mobility aids. Doorways that are at least 32 inches wide are easy for most wheelchairs or walkers to fit through without scuffs. A step-free doorway is level and smooth to enable people to pass through without assistance.
2. Replace Carpet with Solid Surface Flooring
Deep carpets and area rugs can be tripping hazards. Solid surface flooring like hardwood or luxury vinyl planks is easier for manual wheelchair users to navigate and reduces the chance of falls for ambulatory people with balance issues. A solid surface is also simpler to clean when mobility aids track in dirt or moisture.
3. Optimize Kitchen Organization
Arrange your kitchen so that essential and frequently used items are within reach. Organizing drawers, cabinets, and countertop storage that are at or below waist height can be more accessible than placing items up high. Extended grabber devices may be helpful for accessing lightweight items that are placed above counter height. Customizing counter height and roll-under cooking stations can add independent functionality. Also consider appliances with nobs or buttons that are designed at the front so that you do not have to exposure to hot surfaces.
4. Install a Roll-Under Sink
Roll-under sinks in bathrooms and kitchens make life cleaner and less damp. Eliminate annoying wet sleeves and discomfort from straining awkwardly to reach the faucet from far away. Plumbing in roll-under sinks can be concealed by finished wood panels or left exposed for an industrial design.
5. Place Grab Bars in the Bathroom
Sturdy grab bars in the bathroom reduce the chances of serious injury. Placing bars near the toilet and in the shower makes the space safer for elderly people and anyone with reduced physical stability. The bars can be bolted to the wall and are rated for a particular weight capacity.
6. Renovate a Zero-Entry Shower
Zero-entry showers have no lip that could prevent a wheelchair user or person with other mobility challenges to enter alone. This creates a wet room situation in which a strategically placed drain prevents water from pooling. Roll-in showers are safer for disabled people and any care providers who may otherwise lift them over slippery floors. A zero-entry shower can be beautifully tiled and bright like any other high-end home design element.
7. Use Front-Loading Laundry
Front-loading laundry enables residents to sit while sorting their light and dark loads. You can transfer clothes to baskets or rolling laundry trolleys without the strain of leaning into a deep top-loading machine. These laundry machines can be arranged side-by-side or stacked depending on your unique space and accessibility requirements.
8. Adapt Closet Storage
Make your closet work for you! Add pull-down hanging rails and fold essential wardrobe items on open shelves. Place seasonal outfits and shoes within reach and leave room for a seat or mobility aid in a larger closet.
9. Build Ramps and Stairlifts
Replace stairs with carefully graded ramps wherever possible. Indoor and outdoor spaces can benefit from either permanent or mobile ramps. A permanent ramp structure can be finished to match the existing design of your home and is useable for both wheelchair users and ambulatory people. Stairlifts can be installed to increase usable space for young disabled people and elderly relatives. This option can often be installed in one day.
10. Utilize Smart Home Controls
Pair applications on your phone with smart home technology. Controlling household elements like lights, blinds and the thermostat from afar can save physical energy and increase independence for disabled people in their own homes.
Plan for physical accessibility at home now and maximize your investment in comfort.