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.
  • If possible, remove standard doors and have bypass doors installed that use overhead tracks. For other doors in the home that have standard door knobs, replace the knobs with lever-style handles. Lever hardware is popular because of its look and easy of use. Or, try placing a tennis ball cut and slipped over a door knob to make gripping and turning easier.

  • Install structurally supported grab bars in bathrooms and other locations in the house to promote safety.  Click here for more details on ADA bathroom design >>

  • Stairs are the biggest obstacle to having accessibility in your home. If space and finances allow, consider installing a residential stairlift or home elevator that allows you to access and enjoy all levels of your home
  • To make 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. If needed, buy a reacher to use for turning burners off and on if they are located across the back of the stove. 

  • Side-by-side refrigerators are easier to use persons using wheelchairs, unlike a unit with the freezer mounted on top or bottom. Inside the refrigerator, sliding shelves eliminate the need to reach all the way to the back to retrieve what you want.

  • Install a kitchen sink with a "goose-neck" faucet or spout that allows a pot to be filled without lifting it into the sink. And place the cooktop nearby so that a pot can be easily slid across the countertop to the burner with no lifting required.

  • Look for a dishwasher that has a “drawer” type feature that doesn't require bending  to load and unload. Since there is no door in the way, this type of design is easier to use from a sitting position.

  • Specialty retailers sell cutlery with large handles to make them easier to hold. Yet, this cutlery can be expensive. Instead, try wrapping your own kitchen utensils and cutlery with foam pipe wrap from the hardware store. Another option is to buy a long handled parfait spoon and bend the handle into a loop. This allows users to wrap their fingers around the loop and does not require them to grip as tightly.
  • Use night lights to provide greater accessibility and visibility after dark,  whether for easier nocturnal visits to the fridge or safer night time trips to the bathroom.

  • Make sure phones have lit key pads so they can be easily seen and used in an emergency. Consider a monitoring service with an emergency call button that is easy to access.

  • 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.

  • 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 to make dressing easier. Also, consider buying adaptive clothing designed for wheelchair users.

  • Rearrange furniture, such as foot stools and side tables, to allow for wider walkways that will fit a wheelchair. Also, remove or reposition floor rugs for ease and safety.

Content for this article provided  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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