How To Remodel a Home for Accessibility

People often do not think about the accessibility of a home unless they have a friend or loved one with a disability or until they develop mobility issues of their own due to old age. At either point, the many accessibility challenges that most people take for granted become glaringly obvious. The home becomes a nightmarish obstacle course that becomes difficult, if not impossible, to navigate.

When circumstances require it, some people choose to sell their old house and purchase a new construction custom-designed for their needs. However, this is not always possible or desirable. Another option is to retrofit the existing home with new accessibility aids. Here are a few of the most necessary, and therefore most common.

1. Grab Bars

Grab bars can go around the toilet, bathtub, or bed. Essentially, any area where a transfer between a wheelchair and another piece of furniture may take place, or where extra stability is needed because of a fall risk, can benefit from a grab bar. A grab bar is bolted to the wall and provides a sturdy handhold to avoid a slip and fall.

2. Curbless Showers

A curbless shower is one with no sidewall, barrier, or lip between it and the rest of the bathroom. Therefore, it allows a person in a wheelchair to roll right in. People who do not use wheelchairs but still have difficulty walking can also benefit from a curbless shower because there is no raised area to step over and potentially trip on.

3. Stair Lifts

With the exception of those that are specifically designed for accessibility, it is rare to find a home that doesn’t have at least some stairs. Some families arrange matters so that the person with mobility issues never has to go upstairs, but that is not practical for everyone. A solution is the stair lift, which consists of a set of rails that go up the stairs and a motorized chair that travels along it. This allows the person to ascend the staircase without having to mount a single step.

4. Wider Doors

The standard for accessibility is a door that is 36 inches in width. However, when a person in a wheelchair is piloting himself or herself, a mere 36 inches may not be wide enough. Some designers favor 42-inch doors or defer to the homeowners’ specifications.

It is not only the doors’ width that must be taken into consideration. Door handles are easier for a person in a wheelchair to use than doorknobs. Some people prefer sliding doors, which open with an easier motion for a person in a wheelchair to manage.

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