There are many solutions to make a home more accessible that do not break the bank. We’ve highlighted answers to common accessibility issues in detached homes, townhouses or apartments that don’t require a complete design overhaul, which can be costly.
1. Purchase a home automation system and smart home devices
Smart home technology allow individuals to control devices around their home through their smartphones and tablets. Certain tasks that were once difficult or impossible, such as reaching for the light switch to turn on and off the lights or the thermostat to turn up or down the heat are made possible through the Internet of Things. Some useful smart home devices that make a home more accessible are appliances, blinds, door locks, security and monitoring systems, automatic door openers, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, TV's, smart hubs and voice assistants. Read our previous blog about the best smart home automation devices for tecla-e users to find which ones are the best for your needs.
2. Relocate and rearrange furniture
Generally, moving things to a lower height - whether it’s a mirror or mailbox - where they are at eye level with a person in a wheelchair is a good start to making a home accessible. Moving certain items around is not only a solution for easier reaching, but also for mobility. Cluttered rooms and hallways consisting of furniture, boxes, etc. is a big no-no for people using wheelchairs and walkers, which take up a lot of space. The less stuff you have on the floor, the more space you have! Adapting to the “open concept” trend will remove the physical barriers and make cruising around in a wheelchair more comfortable.
Image Source - (Wise Geek)
3. Move a bedroom to the first floor (or make easy adjustments)
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To come up to the standard of accessibility, it is also important to relocate activities like eating, sleeping, bathing, and living onto one floor so that family members using wheelchairs can function independently and unassisted throughout the day.
The easiest room to relocate to the first floor would be a bedroom. Move a bedroom that is currently on the top floor the main floor to make a large accessible room. Another option is to purchase a daybed for the living room to accommodate wheelchair users that are restricted by staircases. Although expensive, stairlifts are a great investment to avoid family members or caregivers injuring themselves or the individual in the wheelchair while helping them up the stairs in two-story houses.
Image Source - (Elevator Design Info)
The first hack that instantly adds more space to a bedroom for wheelchair access is to push the bed against the wall and purchase more compact dressers and desks. With many people living in small condos and apartments in the city, there has been an increase in furniture specially designed to maximize space at retailers like West Elm and Ikea.
To avoid leaving a wheelchair user feeling disconnected while resting, use a Tecla and phone mount during bedtime to give the individual independence and peace of mind while lying in bed. A side-table phone mount can be purchased online like the Tecla Phone Mount.
4. Enlarge your entrance and install ramps or lifts
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Image Source - (J.A.S. Design-Build)
Getting into your home shouldn’t be a challenge. Unfortunately, many homes were designed with steps at the front entrance rather than ramps. The best accessible solution is to install a permanent ramp that doesn’t need to be taken away and placed back by a caregiver or family member every time. However, there are also temporary ramps, folding ramps and suitcase ramps available on the market that do the job.
Many houses have very small entrances to accommodate for more rooms and bigger living spaces. Replacing the front door with a sliding or pocket door will eliminate the difficulty of getting into your house with a wheelchair.
5. Make changes to your bathrooms
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The first step, and most common solution to an accessible bathroom, is to replace a tub with a shower unit that is flush with the floor. Walk-in tubs are another option though they do not provide the same level of independence for a wheelchair user as they would most likely need assistance to enter and exit the tub. In addition, removing the cupboard doors below the sink will provide the proper legroom required for a person in a wheelchair to wash their hands and brush their teeth.
Grab-bars are an essential tool to any accessible bathroom - both beside the toilet and in the tub or shower. However, more can be done to better utilize the space in a bathroom for those using wheelchairs. Since powder rooms are typically quite small, reversing the swing of the door to make it open outwards instead of inwards can instantly add more space within which one can maneuver themselves.
6. Lower your kitchen prep and eating spaces
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Unless you have a custom accessible kitchen, the standard counter height is designed for standing while prepping dinner and cooking meals. The best accessibility hacks are to use pull-out cutting board as lowered prep surface or place a board across the top of two open drawers. Both of these solutions provide plenty of legroom for a wheelchair to roll into and are customizable and affordable for everyone.
Grabbing a snack or ingredients from the fridge can also be nearly impossible with the standard height of shelving. Purchasing a refrigerator which has a freezer beside it, rather than above or below it, can provide easier access with lower shelves. It is also recommended to select a fridge that has the water and ice dispenser on the door either on the inside or outside, which is more accessible than a sink tap or filtered jug. Reserve the bottom shelves and door racks for family members using wheelchairs, or purchase a separate smaller fridge for supplementary storage that’s easily accessible.
Do you have any unique hacks that make a home wheelchair-friendly? Let us know in the comments below!
Source: Global Disability Rights Now