Posted on January 17 2019
Making spaces accessible for a wheelchair user needn’t break the bank. If a family member’s suddenly become a wheelchair user, these are some ways you can help them independently move around as much of the home as possible — without needing to relocate.
Relocate activities, not your home
There are times your loved one will be home unaccompanied. Relocating key activities to the ground floor ensures they can maintain the greatest possible independence during those moments, giving you both a bit of breathing room. While many homes are built before the Universal Design movement began taking root, giving up the first-floor master suite in favor of the ground floor guest bedroom can save you the high cost of moving and mean your loved one can perform all key daily activities independently. Ensure all the essential functions — eating, sleeping, bathing and working — are on the ground floor. A communal living room, or socializing area, is also a great idea for this level. Keep less frequent activities for rooms on other floors and as bedrooms etc. for family members without mobility impairment.
Pull up the carpet
Begin to view your home through the lens of your favorite DIY show. Combine this with a growing empathy as you learn about the needs of the wheelchair user and you’ll soon find making choices towards accessibility become second-nature. Take flooring, for example. Hardwood is generally considered the best flooring for wheelchair users — it’s slip resistant without hampering movement the way a carpet would do. If you’re not in the market to replace your carpets with hardwood, more cost-effective options include ceramic tiles and linoleum.
Work on your entrances and exits
Before ADA regulations kicked in, most homes were built without accessibility in mind. This means you’re probably living in a home with steps out the front, instead of ramps. Take some time to inventory your home in terms of its entrances and exits, and then work systematically to remove their barriers to access. Install ramps to overcome stairs, widen and smoothen pathways, and consider removing as many interior doors as possible. For the doors that you can’t do without? Level the thresholds, and gain some extra width by changing to expandable door hinges. Finally, think about how each door interacts with any ramps — there may be a few you need to rehang to swing in the opposite direction!
This goes hand in hand with relocating your activities. At the same time as switching your rooms around, see how you can rearrange your work surfaces and storage places to make the most common activities independently accessible for the wheelchair user. Keep an eye on the heights of door-handles (pro tip: switch knobs to levers), and see which pieces of furniture you could lower to set at a comfortable transfer height. With some planning, none of these adjustments will interfere with your interior decorating — for instance, many lowered workspaces slide into cabinets and look like drawers from the outside (pro tip: Pinterest is great for inspiration).
Consider investing in one or two additional pieces of assistive technology that extend the wheelchair’s ability to go places. For example, if you live in a multi-storey home you can avoid needing to move or make permanent infrastructure changes by purchasing a stair climbing wheelchair, a mobile stairlift. This helps especially if you’re living in a condo, where changes like adding a home lift simply won’t receive planning permission. A mobile stairlift is also a much cheaper option than traditional alternatives — you only need one, for any amount of staircases. If like the Mobile Stairlift, it’s compact enough, you can also take it with you when heading out to socialize. You’ll quickly be able to regain your freedom to socialize as a family, as well as opening up access to the whole house.
To learn more about how The Mobile Stairlift can open up multiple spaces for you and your loved one, download your copy of their introductory brochure.