Whether you currently live with a disability or are planning for when you or someone close to you may, building accessibility into your home can prove vital for aging in place, caring for a family member or increasing the “visit ability” of your home. Listed below are the top issues one should consider before undertaking any improvements, according to Disaboom (www.disaboom.com), the largest online community for people living with or touched by disability.
Mobility Issues. Be aware of your own needs as a person with a disability and what works best for you. It’s a good idea to make a list of issues you encounter regularly and then think of modifications that would resolve each of these issues. Different degrees of disability will require customized adaptations to achieve greatest ease of use. Always remember, this is your house. Modifications should be designed off your own specifications regardless of what the accessible home standards recommend.
Budget. Modifying a home does not have to be extremely expensive but can prove to be. Be realistic about your budget and if you decide to go through a contractor, insist that they provide a firm bid identifying the total cost of the project and how long it will take to complete. Financial help is out there. Disability Vocational Rehabilitation, Veterans Affairs, church groups, neighbors and even television shows such as “Extreme Home Makeover” are a few good resources that can help shoulder the financial burden. To better understand the costs associated with making your home accessible, visit RE/MAX’s “Assess Your Access” calculator on disaboom.com, which provides estimation based on your house’s criteria.
Location. While locale is a personal preference, a few variables to keep in mind include: walking distance to amenities such as groceries, dining, pharmacies and public transportation stops; the safety of the neighborhood; and your desired level of community support.
It’s important to keep all of these guidelines in mind as well, as you design specific areas of your home, such as the ones listed below.
Garden. The first step in developing an accessible garden is to make sure you can navigate around and through your garden. This includes having wide enough pathways, being able to reach the planters for planting, watering and weeding. Hanging planters, raised beds, and rail systems are practical solutions. Research and utilize the many specialized lightweight, easy to grip and spring-loaded gardening tools available to make gardening much easier.
Entrance. The first key feature to an entrance is a direct access ramp. The ideal location to install this is in your garage, to protect it from the elements, which reduces maintenance and other associated risk factors. If the garage is not an option, be aware of water drainage so that the ramp does not become a hazard. Motion sensor lighting can be extremely helpful for illuminating the ramp and landing area. Make sure that you install an ample doorway and that all passageways and hallways are at least forty-two inches wide.
Kitchen. When designing an accessible kitchen, make sure that you have enough floor space and are able to maneuver easily. This is especially important in front of appliances. Position the kitchen sink and faucet handles in an accessible location to accommodate users of varying heights. Positioning cabinets and countertops at a lower height will provide an accessible prep area for cooking. When space is limited, pull-down cabinets can also be an accessible solution. If you have grip limitations, look at hardware that incorporates levers or loop handles that can be easily operated with a closed fist. This applies to door hardware, cabinet hardware, sink, and stove controls.
Bathroom. Creating a safe, accessible bathroom is very important. Simple adjustments such as grip bars and railings can prevent serious injury from occurring. Allocate enough space for a wheelchair to pull in and back out and even consider installing a walk in/roll in shower. Bathroom sinks should also accommodate users of varying heights.
Office. Setting up a home office may be the simplest way to get back into a regular work routine. Some options to consider when designing your accessible office include: wheelchair accessible desk, foot activated mouse, adjustable furniture and speaking devices that record and respond to voice commands. Incorporating such products will not only serve to further enhance productivity, but can also enhance comfort as well.
Accessing Multiple Floors. Home owners with a new disability in a multi-level home looking to access their second floor have a few options; residential elevators, vertical wheelchair lifts, or a stair lift. Wheelchair lifts and stair lifts are less costly, do not require a machine room, and are more space efficient. Wheelchair users should note that if they decide to install a stair lift, two separate wheelchairs are required unless they wish to carry their wheelchair with them.
Other Elements. Attention to detail can make all the difference. Raising electrical outlets, lowering switches, and ridding your home of doorway thresholds (as they present a trip hazard) are some small details that help immensely. Specialized appliances such as front loading washers and dryers and the self running Roomba Vacuum can also make life that much easier.
Whether you currently have a disability, desire to increase the “visit ability “ of your home, or are planning for the future, having an accessible home is a key component to living forward. To discover more information on how to make your home accessible, estimate the costs associated with increasing your home’s accessibility, or share ideas with others in the community, visit www.disaboom.com. Remember, “A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”
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Author: Kim Donahue