In July of 2020, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reached a milestone. Thirty years ago, this vital piece of legislation made discrimination against disabled people illegal. The ADA changed life for disabled people who couldn’t access public places, including restrooms, because of their disability.
Today businesses, churches, and schools modify buildings to accommodate their disabled clients, visitors, and students. However, the ADA doesn’t govern residential spaces.
If people with disabilities need a handicap-accessible home, it’s up to them and their support network to figure out what changes to make. When you support a loved one with limited mobility, there are five things you can do to help make their home safer and more comfortable.
1. Create a Clear Path
Doors and hallways can create significant obstacles to home safety. In homes not modified for accessibility, you’ll find narrow hallways and doorways with openings that are not wide enough for a wheelchair to fit through safely.
To accommodate a wheelchair, you’ll need to widen doorways to at least 32 inches. However, it’s easier to maneuver a wheelchair through an opening of 36 inches. Install rounded thresholds and ensure they don’t sit more than one-half inch from the floor.
When thresholds sit too high, it creates a challenge for wheelchair users and people who use walkers and canes.
Along with widening doorways, you’ll also need to evaluate hallway width. Make sure the hallways are a minimum of 36 inches wide. When taking measurements for hallways, consider whether a wheelchair user will need to make sharp turns—you may need to make hallways even wider.
2. Consider Installing a Stairlift
Were you aware that roughly 3 million older adults seek emergency treatment because they fall? The inability to go up and down stairs poses a safety risk. Stairs, no matter what size or shape they are in, can be modified without much fuss.
To make stairs handicap accessible, please make sure the stair treads are rounded and a minimum of 11 inches wide. Installing handrails on both sides of the staircase adds another level of safety.
People who struggle with mobility issues may have difficulty traveling navigating stairs. Stair lifts have one goal in mind. Inside, lifts help people enjoy a higher level of independence.
Lifts come in different designs, including:
- Stair lifts—straight and curved.
- Platform lifts—vertical and inclined.
You’ll also find outdoor lifts. Once you get to this stage of the project, it’s time to make arrangements to meet up with a local dealer who can show you the features and benefits of each model.
3. Focus on Bathroom Safety
The bathroom can be a dangerous place for anyone, but it’s even more so for a person with a disability. Everywhere you look, there’s a potential hazard, but with just a few changes, you can minimize the risk of slip and fall accidents.
If possible, replace tubs with walk-in showers. Either build a seat into the shower design or buy a portable shower chair. For added independence, switch out the original shower head with a hand-held one.
Standard toilets usually sit too low for people with limited mobility. Sinks are also awkward to reach. Here are three relatively simple things you can do to make the bathroom handicap-accessible:
- Install grab bars.
- Install a taller toilet.
- Install a handicap-accessible sink.
Place grab bars in the shower area and close to the toilet. The best sinks for accessibility are wall mount designs. You’ll want to ensure you plan for enough clearance around the sink and toilet for a wheelchair.
4. The Heart of the Home
Making a kitchen accessible to a disabled person requires a little creativity and a lot of planning. You may need to remove floor cabinets, move plumbing, or install new pipes.
New countertops may be in order as well. Generally, countertops (and sinks) should not be any taller than 30 inches. As far as cabinet hardware, if the current cabinets have knobs, exchange them with pulls. As we age, weakening muscles and arthritis make it difficult to grab and pull a door or drawer open.
Another potential hazard in the kitchen and other rooms in the house is the carpet. While most people today don’t carpet the kitchen, some still do. This is an excellent time to upgrade flooring and get rid of high pile rugs.
5. Create a More Accessible Outdoor Space
There’s nothing that makes a person appreciate independence more than being stuck inside while the flowers bloom. By adding an outdoor stair or platform lift, you’ll open up the doors for your friend or loved one to soak up the sun and breathe in the fresh air.
Do a walk-around the yard and identify any potential trip hazards. Attend to areas of uneven pavement and smooth out. If there are textured surfaces, try to fill them in to create a level area for wheelchairs. You’ll also want surfaces to have traction so people can safely walk on them.
Earlier, we mentioned outdoor stairlifts. Why not give your loved one the gift of independence by installing a stairlift to allow them to enjoy the outdoors when they want to rather than having to wait for assistance?
We Can Help You Create a Handicap-Accessible Home
Once you’ve decided which direction to go as far as creating an environment friendly to people who are disabled, you can begin ordering new bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinetry, and flooring.
Harmar’s area of expertise is in stairlifts. We help customers every day choose the best mobility products to create a handicap-accessible home.
If you have questions about our stairlifts or you’d like to connect with a local dealer, contact us today!