It can be difficult to determine the all of the aspects of making a home wheelchair accessible, especially when a loved one becomes disabled in a matter of weeks or months. There is also the cost to consider in having to remodel several different areas of a home in a short period of time, so cost-efficient measures are of the utmost importance as well as creating an accessible and safe wheelchair ready environment. These are some important things to consider:
1. Yard Access
All the walkways and other access surfaces should be checked to see if they are free of bumps or uneven areas. You may have to widen paths to fit a wheelchair comfortably so it will not consistently run over into a grassy or landscaped area. Make sure the surfaces are also smooth but have enough traction to avoid skidding.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, all entryway doors need to have a threshold of at least one-half inch in height to accommodate a wheelchair, and it must be sloped or rounded for wheels. There is also the consideration of installing a ramp or some form of incline. This needs to be at least 36 inches wide to comfortably accommodate a wheelchair. There are usually some form or handrails and safety “curbs” on the ramp to avoid slipping.
3. Floor Plan Layouts
Consider that a floor plan that will have the most convenience for someone who is wheelchair bound would be an open floor plan with a main floor that has a bedroom, full bathroom, kitchen, and sitting room. Avoid any carpeting that will impede the use of wheels. This includes throw rugs which will inevitably get bound up or shift with the chair’s wheels. Wood or tile flooring is always a better alternative.
These areas should be clear of wider tables, cabinets, and any other types of displays that could make access for a wheelchair difficult. The openings to each hallway also need to be at least 32 inches wide for a standard wheelchair to fit through comfortable whether the person is being pushed or rolling themselves through the entryway.
5. Electrical Outlets
If your goal is to make your wheelchair bound loved one as independent as possible, then you may want to consider having the electrical outlets customized and raised to 15 inches above the floor. This could include light switches and other electrical appliances that could be lowered to 48 inches from the floor as well.
Since the use of a bathtub is almost impossible for someone in a wheelchair, customized the bathroom and removing the tub to create a shower large enough to accommodate rolling a wheelchair into it. They can also be customized with a seat so that anyone in a wheelchair that hop onto the seat and close the door themselves and use a hand-held shower head. Sinks need to also be between 30-48 inches and allow wheelchairs to be rolled up to them. Toilets can be purchased in taller models as well and grab bars should be put throughout the bathroom including next to the toilet and sink as well as several in the shower area.
For wheelchair users who intend on cooking for themselves, the sinks, ovens and counters in the kitchen area need to be lowered to the same height as the sink areas in the bathroom (30-48 inches). There are also appliances that are more wheelchair friendly like side-by-side refrigerators with the freezer at waist height as well as the main fridge area.
This is a guest post by Carolyn Ridland, the founder of Caregiver Connection.