Most of us experience at least a temporary disability at some point of a life. The disability might range from a simple muscular sprain or an accident to a chronic debilitating disability in which the person can find himself using a wheelchair or a walker. The wheelchair accessibility at home must also be planned for our ageing parents. The planning comes from farsighted builders and remodelers, who can anticipate the changing needs. The handicapped accessible remodelling and accessibility modifications, provide solutions for the home to enhance and improve the wheelchair accessibility and safety in the home environment.
If you are wheelchair bound, you will definitely need to make some changes to your lifestyle and your living environments so you do not have difficulty getting around and accessing things at home. Majority of the disabled people face difficulty to bathe, dress, cook and get around the inside of their own homes. It is very convenient for the disabled patients to choose to live and retire in their own home, rather than to relocate to a nursing Home or assisted living centre. Wheelchair accessibility is the ability to enter the home and move around without facing any kind of obstacles including the steps and the narrow doors. The issue of creating a housing, which is better for all the people has been addressed by both the governmental and private organisations. We have compiled some tips you might find handy when you are considering how to increase the wheelchair accessibility of your home
Easy Wheelchair Access Outdoors
- The first alteration to be made is at the entrance of the home. The handicap wheelchair ramp installation is one of the most requested services. The cost of constructing a ramp varies, depending on the size and materials used for its construction. Also, while installing the ramp, it must be ensured that it has a handrail, a non slip surface, and a cover. The most commonly used ramps are wood ramps or aluminium wheelchair ramps, or concrete ramps. Concrete ramps, if installed properly, will last many years and require minimum maintenance as they can be finished with a rough texture. On the other hand, the wood ramps require a lot of maintenance and last only a few years. Also, the wood ramps are a real hazard, as the get slippery when wet. Install a ramp for at least one entrance/exit of the dwelling. The ramp should be built at no more than a 1-to-12 gradient.
- Convert gravel walks to concrete for all-weather access.
- Construct ramp access to the garage or carport to allow sheltered entrance into and exit from a vehicle.
- Move the mailbox to an accessible point.
Easy Wheelchair Access Indoors
- Construct one entrance door without steps. Ideally, a one story open home concept with direct accessibility to the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen is preferred.
- The doors must be at least 32 inches wide, with the straight in approach, along with plenty of turning space.
- The door can only open 90 degrees as it opens against the wall. The use of “swing away door hinges” will swing the door completely out of the opening and provide a much wider entrance.
- Remove loose carpets or rugs to facilitate movement.
- Change doorknobs to lever-type handles.
- Replace narrow doors with pocket doors or even curtains so you have no trouble getting from room to room or even entering the house while you are on your wheelchair.
- Move furniture to allow at least a 32-inch path and a 5-foot turning radius. There is nothing more annoying than not being able to move freely within your own home.
- Add a 36-inch string to each door handle. A wheelchair user can use this to pull the door closed when moving through the doorway.
- Add furniture coasters or decorated, small blocks of wood to raise tables and desks above knee level.
- Tack or glue down small, wedge-shaped pieces of wood or metal to serve as mini ramps over high door thresholds.
- Use drop leaf, roll-away carts for kitchen work areas.
- Change bathroom vanity-style sink fixtures to pedestal types. Sinks are installed to allow wheelchair access. Also, the vanity cabinets are removed from below the sink to accommodate the wheelchair. But this will expose the plumbing pipes which mandates the need to cover them with insulation or get them boxed in, in order to prevent contact with the sharp edges and burns by hot water pipes. Modifications to the bathroom must be done to avoid injuries and is one of the most requested services.
- Change the toilet to a taller, narrower handicapped toilet to permit access by commode wheelchair. The standard residential apartments usually have a 17 inch high toilet seat. This is usually too low for some of the people which makes it difficult for them to get up. It is this helpful to replace the toilet seat with a 19 inch high toilet or install a raised seat.
- Install grab bars as necessary in the bathroom.
- Install a nonslip floor in the bathroom.
- Install a hose/nozzle system in the shower.
- The tub area has to be carefully designed to aid to the safety. Bath tub and shower grab bars are installed to provide support and the tub transfer seats allows the patient to sit in the tub to take a bath or shower without the need to lower themselves to the tub floor, as transferring from a wheelchair to the tub can be extremely difficult. Put in a water-powered ascending/descending tub seat.
- Most of the patients find it difficult to step in and out of the bath tub, due to the height of the tub walls. It is thus considered to be easier, to replace the tub with a shower. The prefabricated and molded acrylic / fiberglass shower units are available in the market and some of them even include the built in shower seats.
- Install lever handles on kitchen and bathroom sinks.
- Ideally, an accessible kitchen must provide a 5 foot diameter floor space clearance so as to allow the wheelchair to turn around. Also, it is difficult for the disabled person to reach the standard 36 inch high countertops, therefore they should be lowered to 30 inches so as to provide a minimum clearance of 27 inches from the floor. The undercounter base cabinets must be removed for access to the sink or work area. The sink must be shallow and pipes and sharp object must be covered to prevent injury. The sliding shelves or baskets must be installed in the lower cabinets.
- Consider changing appliances to front-control, front-access types.
- Plan an emergency exit for the wheelchair user.
Making some of these changes to your home might seem tiresome and you might even get put off by the costs of these wheelchair accessibility changes. However, you must understand that if you are confined to your wheelchair for the long term, it is important that you maximize wheelchair accessibility for your home. Therefore, even though it might be expensive in the beginning, it is a capital investment that will prove to be very useful and helpful in the long run.
The wheelchair accessible house plans takes into consideration the special needs of the physically disabled people in order to grant an appropriate level of freedom and mobility throughout the residential space. The disabled person has to face many challenges and the simple things such as navigating through their own home should not be one of them.