If you use a wheelchair, you may need to make some changes to your home to make it easy to move around. While the obvious option is renovating areas such as the entrance to your home and installing equipment such as wheelchair ramps, stair lifts, and patient lifts, there are other, simple and cost-effective steps you can take to help you access all areas of your house.
Read on for four simple steps for a wheelchair accessible home that you can take BEFORE installing costly equipment and making big home accessibility renovations. For more tips on home accessibility and aging in place, contact us today.
1. Modify Your Entrance
Entering the house is not normally challenging, but standard house entrances pose a lot of challenges for wheelchair users, including multiple doors, a threshold, and narrow door frames. However, there are a few simple changes you can make to your front door/entrance to make your home more wheelchair accessible.
Firstly, consider removing your storm door. It can be extremely difficult to hold open one door while you reach into the doorway to open the interior door (all from a seated position), and at the same time propel yourself over a threshold. Removing your storm/weather door will remove one more obstacle out of your path.
Secondly, install threshold hinges on your interior door to give you more room to enter the house with your chair. Regular door hinges allow the door to swing open while it remains inside the doorway, giving you less room to move, especially if you are using a manual chair and need to propel forward by placing your hands on the OUTSIDE of the wheels of your chair.
Offset hinges, on the other hand, allow the door to swing completely OUT of the doorway, widening it by up to 2” without the need of remodeling your entire door frame. While this may not seem like alot, the difference is definitely noticeable when trying to enter the house in a wheelchair or other mobility aid.
Thirdly, consider investing in a threshold ramp to tackle the weather strip at the front door. Rubber threshold ramps by Pride Mobility meet ADA slope requirements, and come with 0.5” increments. They can easily be installed in any standard doorway, and provide a total of 36” of usable space.
Finally, also consider investing in an automatic door opener. While these can range in price up to $2500, they are a great investment when preparing a wheelchair accessible home. Units such as the Record 6100 open, hold, and close the door for you, and feature programmable hold times to allow you enough time to enter. They can easily be installed on all types of doors, and can be activated by a remote that can be handheld and attached to a wheelchair. Contact us for more information about automatic door openers and other home accessibility products.
2. Decorate Accordingly
While we all like our homes to be beautifully and stylishly decorated, some of the ways we do this are not always practical for a wheelchair user.
When creating a wheelchair accessible home, firstly consider the type of flooring you currently have in your house. Hard surfaces (such as laminated wood or asphalt tiles) are the easiest for manual wheelchair users to propel over and also generally require less power from power chairs.
Carpeted floors, however, are notoriously difficult for wheelchair users, and should be avoided wherever possible. Hence, avoid placing rugs and carpets in areas that receive alot of traffic, such as hallways, walkways, and entrances into rooms.
Also make sure you leave a clear path through your living, dining, and bathrooms that are free of mats that may make it unnecessarily hard for you to move around in your chair. Remove them from any areas where you need to turn your chair (such as corners) to avoid the extra difficulty, and if you DO want to place a rug somewhere, make sure you use something with a thin pile.
Secondly, make sure you place your furniture in such a way that gives you enough space to freely and comfortably move around the house in your chair. While you may have a large, open plan living format, you may be causing yourself unnecessary difficulties by cluttering certain spaces with furniture.
Start with the hallways and entrances to individual rooms and make sure they are clear of any furniture. Also, consider areas where you generally find yourself turning your chair, and make sure you leave those spaces open to give you enough space when doing so.
Finally, consider raising some of your flat surfaces such as tables, desks, and dressing tables using bed raisers. This will boost the height of the surface, making it more comfortable to perform daily tasks such as eating dinner, or working from your desk.
3. Ensure There is Plenty of Lighting
Proper lighting is super important when planning a wheelchair accessible home and when preparing to age in place. According to CNIB, half a million Canadians are estimated to live with significant vision loss, and with our increasing use of technology such as smartphones and laptops, it is becoming increasingly common for people to lose their sight as they get older.
Luckily, there are many simple and cost-effective lighting solutions you can install in and around your home today that will make it easier, safer, and more comfortable to age in your own home.
Motion sensor lighting fixtures are probably the most suitable for wheelchair users. They can be installed both indoors and outdoors, and are automatically turned on when someone steps within the light’s radius.
Make sure any entrances to your home are well-lit, and consider equipping them with fixtures that use two bulbs, just in case one of them goes out. Also make sure any driveways or walkways leading to your house from the street or your backyard are also set up with proper lighting.
Consider installing nightlights in the bedroom, bathroom, hallways, and any other areas that might get some traffic at night. Finally, install some task lighting fixtures in cupboards, shelves, dressers, or any other storage areas to help you find things easily.
4. Consider Investing in A Portable Wheelchair Ramp
Last but definitely not least, our final tip for a wheelchair accessible home is investing in a portable wheelchair ramp such as the Roll-A-Ramp.
These ramps are a great alternative to expensive chair lifts or permanent wooden ramps, and can be used in a variety of situations. Roll-A-Ramps come in four different widths and can be built to the length you need:
- 26″ – Suitable for mini-van use and narrower chairs or walkers
- 30″ – Standard size suitable for most applications
- 36″ – For public applications or larger chairs
These ramps also feature patented link construction, meaning you’ll never get stuck with the wrong size ramp; simply add additional links to change the length of your ramp with the simple tools provided.
Standard Roll-A-Ramps are made from aircraft-grade aluminum tracks that support up to 1000 pounds, and can also be fitted with 12” twin tracks to support up to 2000 pounds. They also feature quick release pins that allow the user to quickly split the ramp into different sections, and come with a 10-year warranty.
Roll-A-Ramps can be used to access your apartment/home, enter vans or other vehicles, and enter restaurants, shopping malls, schools, and hotels. One final benefit of the Roll-A_Ramp is that you won’t need a building permit to install it in your home like you would when installing permanent ramps.
If you’re interested in investing in a portable wheelchair ramp such as the Roll-A-Ramp, or require more information about creating the perfect wheelchair accessible home, contact us today.
For more information about home accessibility and aging in place, check out our blog regularly for new articles.