There are many reasons why you may be considering making your home more wheelchair accessible. You or someone in your household may be struggling with a disability and mobility issues. Perhaps you’re growing older and are finding yourself more dependent on a wheelchair to get from A to B.
Making wheelchair-friendly modifications to your property can seem like a challenge, but with careful planning, carrying out these changes is a relatively straightforward undertaking.
Why Accessibility is Important for Wheelchair Users
It is estimated that there are more than 3.3 million wheelchair users in the United States alone. Many of these wheelchair users are aged 65 and over, with an aging population becoming increasingly dependent on wheelchairs and mobility aids. It’s forecast that more than 2 million more people per year are likely to become wheelchair dependent.
The vast majority of homes aren’t designed with wheelchair users in mind. Floor coverings, door dimensions, and general room layouts make maneuvering around in a wheelchair incredibly difficult. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can reconfigure your home to make it more wheelchair-friendly. Many of these modifications are inexpensive and can be undertaken as DIY projects.
Doors and Entrances
Small doors and entrances can make the average home inaccessible to wheelchair users. In the US, the standard width of a front door is 36 inches. This should prove more than sufficient for a wheelchair to pass through. However, when it comes to interior doors, things become more complicated. Many interior doors measure no more than 32 inches in width. This may prove too tight for most wheelchairs, requiring you to carry out some modifications.
If you only need to increase clearance slightly, you can consider removing unnecessary trims from around your door frames. You can also replace standard door hinges with offset ones. If neither of these approaches provides you with adequate clearance, you may need to think about widening your doorway. This can prove an expensive option, especially if you need to reroute electrical wiring and plumbing lines.
Exterior access also needs to be considered. Ramps are the obvious choice here. Modular ramp systems are the best option for those who want something that can be customized at a later date. Modular free-standing ramps can also be used throughout the home to allow access at multiple points of a property.
Flooring is another crucial consideration when adapting your home for wheelchair users. An ideal floor covering should be hard-wearing and easy to maintain. It should also offer excellent grip, ensuring wheelchair users can maneuver comfortably throughout your interiors.
Carpeted floors are often seen as a hazard for wheelchair users, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Deep pile carpets will present wheelchairs with a significant obstacle, but carpeted floors with a low-grade pile will present little resistance to wheelchair wheels. However, even the most durable carpeted floor will begin to show signs of wear quickly.
Tiled flooring is a good option for those seeking a robust option. Provided you invest in high-quality ceramic material and have laid down large enough tiles, you can enjoy a hard-wearing floor that’s easy to maintain. A more affordable tile alternative is vinyl. Vinyl tiles are also readily available in a variety of colors and designs, making it easy to inject some personality into your interiors. Vinyl flooring may not be the most durable choice of material, but it’s fairly easy to remove and replace single tiles as they begin to wear from heavy wheelchair use.
Finally, there’s laminate flooring. This flooring material is the standard in many homes and provides little resistance to wheels. Like vinyl, individual laminate panels can be removed and replaced inexpensively. If your current laminate flooring isn’t as slip-resistant as you’d like, you can also incorporate floor mats into your rooms for a more wheelchair-friendly home.
An accessible bathroom is particularly important for wheelchair users. A taller toilet is a staple of any wheelchair-friendly bathroom. If you have a large renovation budget, installing a taller model of toilet is advised. However, toilet seat inserts are ideal for those looking for a budget-friendly solution. You’ll also need to think carefully about vanity counter and basin heights. Sink rims should sit no higher than 34 inches from the ground. What’s more, your vanity counter will need to include some knee clearance to allow wheelchair users to access the faucet.
Installing grab bars will make accessing showers and bathtubs relatively easy, provided your bathroom is large enough. Shower seats are also worth considering if you have a walk-in cubicle. If you’re looking for maximum accessibility, investing in a walk-in tub is something to contemplate.
Budgeting for Wheelchair-Friendly Modifications
In addition to adapting your doorways, flooring, and bathroom, you’ll also need to think about making modifications to your kitchen and bedroom. Although basic modifications can be carried out inexpensively, more extensive redevelopments can cost upwards of $4,000. If you’re struggling to pull together the funds to carry out home alterations, it’s worth investigating what disability financial support you might be entitled to.
Author Bio: This article was written by Conor O’Flynn of O’Flynn Medical. O’Flynn Medical are the leading supplier of medical equipment in the UK and Ireland.