Accessibility in Your Home

How to Make Your Home Wheelchair-Friendly

To enhance accessibility in your home, consider the following tips that are designed to help make it easier to "navigate" around your home and enjoy greater independence.

  • When assistive devices are being used in the home, there is sometimes a problem with doorways being too narrow. Some hardware stores have hinges that allow the door to open and drop back in line with the frame and provide an extra few inches for access.

  • Remove the trim around the inside edge of the door from the floor to the midway point of the frame. This will add an extra half inch to the door way and may be enough to allow a wheelchair or walker to pass through to provide greater accessibility in your home.
  • Remove standard doors and have bypass doors installed that use overhead tracks.

  • Accessibility in your home also includes making meal preparation easier. Mount an adjustable mirror above the stove if you are in a wheelchair so you can see into the pots on the stove from your chair.

  • Buy a "reacher" to use for turning burners off and on if they are located across the back of the stove. This is helpful for persons using a wheelchair, as well as someone with restricted movement in their shoulders and arms.

  • Buy a roll of that "waffle" or non skid shelf liner at the hardware or kitchen store and cut into circles that fit over jar lids. It makes opening jars and bottles easier.

  • Specialty stores sell cutlery with large handles for people with arthritis or impaired use due to stroke. They are expensive. Try wrapping your own kitchen utensils with foam pipe wrap from the hardware store.

  • Another option for enhanced accessibility in your home is to buy a long handled parfait spoon and bend the handle into a loop. This allows the user to wrap their fingers around the loop and does not require them to grip as tightly.
  • As we age our eyes take longer to adjust to the darkness. Use night lights to provide greater accessibility in your home after dark whether for nocturnal visits to the fridge or to make night time trips to the bathroom safer.

  • Make sure phones have oversize lit key pads so they can be easily seen and used in an emergency. Do not program 911 into the auto dial on the phone. If it is touched in error a call will go out and waste valuable emergency services time and resources.

  • Phones that must be turned on or off by pushing a button are a good choice. Do not place the bedroom phone on the floor next to the bed or on a soft piece of furniture such as a chair or footstool. This may sound logical but many a relative has been frantic when they could not reach Granny for hours, only to drive 50 miles and find the phone off the hook.
  • Mount battery operated lights in closets or cupboards that do not have lights in them. Put scarves, hats and gloves in baskets that can be easily reached to avoid stretching to reach the top shelf.

  • There are all sorts of gadgets out there to automate lights indoors and out. Have lights on near your home entrance and from the driveway to the door. If you arrive home with a car full of parcels wait until daylight to unload them to reduce the chance of tripping.

  • If turning lights off or on is difficult, there are peddles that can be stepped on to activate lamps and lamp bases that only need to be touched to turn on the light.

  • A tennis ball cut and slipped over a door knob also makes it easier to grip and turn.

  • Keys with large round tops are also easier to manage. If possible get new keys made with these tops. Some have rubberized, color rims on them for easier grip and identification on a full key chain.

  • If zippers on clothing or other items are hard to manage, add a tassel, large loop or cord so stiff fingers don't have to work so hard.

  • Put a chair or bench close to the entrance so there is a place to sit and remove or put on shoes. Bending over or standing up too quickly can cause dizziness.

  • Rearrange furniture, such as foot stools and side tables, to allow for wider walkways.

This article was written by Deborah Baker of Silvercross Stair Lifts.

Related Information - Accessibility in Your Home

ADA Bathroom Requirements
Mobility Ramp Specs
Mobility Resources
Cooling Wheelchair Cushion

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