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Remodeling Your Home to be Handicap Accessible

by Guest Post on Feb 23, 2016

-If you or someone you love lives with limited mobility, you know what a hassle functioning in inaccessible spaces can be. Just getting into an inaccessible home is a chore, let alone using the appliances or plumbing. To make life easier for handicapped individuals struggling in their own homes, we've collected some helpful tips to improve your accessibility.

Not all of the following options are available for all homes. If you're looking for a fresh start with a new home, look for a one-story model with wide hallways and door frames. Choose a home on flat land that won't be difficult to traverse for someone in a wheelchair or with limited mobility. If you use a handicap accessible van, it's wise to have a large, attached garage to store it in and which can be remodeled with a ramp for access into the home from the garage.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury to pick the ideal handicap accessible home to start with. Some of us have two or three-story homes on the top of hills with thin door frames. Don't fear- there's still plenty you can do to make your home accessible.

Front Entrances

Getting in the front door is usually the first problem handicapped people run into. Most homes can be fitted with permanent ramps while others choose to use portable ramps. If you have limited space, there's the option to install a lift or a small elevator.

Depending on the structure of your house, you even have the option of installing a port that allows you to unload a wheelchair from a van right onto your porch or deck. There are many options to make the entrance of your home handicap accessible, no matter the model or size. Always consult professional remodeling contractors when considering the safety of your family.

wheel chair

Photo by ferobanjo.

Time To Rearrange

The very first and most simple thing you can do to make your home more accessible is to rearrange furniture and even rooms. There should be a clear 32”-36” pathway throughout the home and especially around doorways. Low, sharp corners should be covered to prevent unfortunate accidents.

Doorways

Wheelchairs are typically under 30” wide but when they turn they require at least 32” of space. Older homes especially sometimes have very thin door frames that make rooms inaccessible to the handicapped.

Here are your options if the doors in your home make it handicap inaccessible:

  • Removing the door is the least expensive and most practical way to save a few inches of door space, but it doesn't offer much privacy even with a curtain. Accordion doors are not recommended because they take up so much space when open and can very easily get caught on a walker or wheelchair.
  • Swing away hinges like those found in hospitals are great solutions because they are relatively cheap and offer the same amount of free space as removing the door entirely.
  • Widening your doors using professional contractors takes less than a day and the complications are relatively few. They may need to rearrange some wiring but in most cases widening existing door frames is a viable option.

Accessible Bathrooms

People with limited mobility look for a few key things in an accessible bathroom:

  • A taller toilet is often easier to transition to from a wheelchair or other movement aid. Consider installing a taller toilet complete with an arm-bar for added security.
  • Sturdy arm-bars should be available around the toilet and bath/shower. Both inside and outside of the shower need sturdy bars that provide a good grip.
  • An accessible sink is a luxury people in wheelchairs often go without in residential bathrooms. The cabinets underneath make it difficult to reach the knobs and the mirror and medicine cabinet are out of reach. A well accessible sink is low with close knobs and space underneath for the wheelchair.
  • Showers and baths need to be easy to get in and out of, with a seating area and textured floor.

There are plenty of other ways to make your home more handicapped accessible, but this is a good list to get you started. If you are remodeling your home for a loved one, just think how difficult it may be to use and access different things in your home, and be conscious to offer creative solutions when they arise.

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