House Modifications for Wheelchairs

House Modifications for Wheelchairs

Coming home after an injury is hard. Coming home to a house that no longer meets your needs or allows you access is a deal breaker. What changes are needed to make a home truly accessible? What are the basics you can do to get by in the meantime?

Stairs are a deal breaker. No way no how are you going to get yourself and a wheelchair up a set of stairs. What do you do? Many people with mobility issues install a stair lift into their home at a reasonable price. There are elevator types of lifts for small sets of stairs and chair style lifts for full sets. The chair lifts are great if you can manage to hold your wheelchair while you ride up. What about a few deep steps like on the porch? You build a ramp. Ramps can be built inside the home as well for sunken rooms and are done fairly easily if you are handy.

What about doorways? In newer construction you will almost always find that doorways are wide enough with the ADA having set standards. This might not be the case in an older home. Your doorways may be too narrow for your wheelchair to fit through. You have no choice but to replace the door and the frame to allow access. Unfortunately you can not become more narrow.

Bathrooms are not fun to remodel in the first place let alone if you now have to make it accessible. Bathrooms in general are narrow and are built to save as much space as possible. If you are lucky enough to have a wider than average bathroom you can make it work. Look for space saving sinks that mount to the wall and are not as deep. You do not need a vanity underneath and it being gone will help you have better access for your needs. You can roll right up under it. You may have to move plumbing and drains to make your current space work for you if you can’t enlarge the room. Installing grab bars near the toilet is a very easy process. Replacing your tub with a roll in shower is ideal but it may not be possible with your budget. If that’s the case, opt for a sliding shower seat that allows you to transfer safely into the bathtub from your chair. The goal in remodeling is safety first. It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing but you will get the job done.

Kitchen sinks can be replaced with an open base as well to allow you more access. The kitchen is never going to be 100% perfect. No matter now much you lower or open spaces you will still be bound by the distance you can reach from your chair. Coincidentally your kitchen cabinets are approximately 2 inches deeper than that limit seems to be. Set spaces aside specifically for items you use everyday on the counters. Keep the cordless phone base at a corner for you to have easier access from multiple angles.

Plan your furniture! Everyone wants their house to look a certain way, but when it comes to a disability the only immediate goal is function. Leave a wide open path that is easy to navigate. Don’t put end tables 3 feet from the entertainment center when you need to navigate around a corner. Keep things as open as possible. If your bedroom is too small to center the bed and have room for a wheelchair then push the bed up against a wall. Do not underestimate the step. Placing couches and furniture against walls opens up a lot of floor space.

Carpet needs to go away forever unless you love working harder and having dirt everywhere. It’s more difficult to move through, especially the plush family friendly sink your feet into kind. That stuff might as well be glue. Tile, wood, and laminate floors are all great options and can be purchased on a budget.

Sometimes a home can not be made to work for your new life and the only option is to move. Unless you are custom building a home nothing will be absolutely perfect. Think and plan ahead for your personal needs. You don’t need to make everything happen in 5 minutes either. You NEED bathroom access, to be able to get into your home, and to care for yourself safely. You can then take time to change carpets and other issues that will improve your quality of life in the house.

Photo Courtesy Flickr CC

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