Making your home wheelchair accessible

It’s not something you’re going to be hoping for, but it pays to plan for such an occasion. A member of your family could find themselves in a wheelchair. People lose their mobility for a variety of reasons, but it’s important for them to retain as much of their independence as possible. Modifying a home is possible and doesn’t have to be expensive. Being able to maintain a certain amount of independence is important. Being able to move freely around the house, showering on their own and preparing food are things we all take for granted until something happens. Here are some tips to help you make your house wheelchair friendly.

• Doorways

Doorways will need to be widened to allow a wheelchair and user to fit through. If the doorways in your home are narrow, you might be able to just remove the frames to allow enough room. Consider changing to a more open plan layout and remove the doors altogether, so the wheelchair user doesn’t have to worry about opening and closing doors. At the front door you might need to install a ramp, but make sure the gradient is shallow to prevent excessive strain on the user.

• The Kitchen

It’s sometimes necessary for a complete redesign to be undertaken, but there are a few things you can do in the meantime. Everyday items such as cups, plates, snacks and food should be moved to a lower level. Appliances with top-level controls should be changed for those with controls at the front. 

• The Bathroom

For a bathroom to be made wheelchair friendly some considerable upgrades are necessary. The toilet may need to be changed, grab rails installed next to the toilet, bath, and shower. Slip resistant flooring needs to be added together with non-slip mats in the bath and shower. What often makes the bathroom most challenging for someone in a wheelchair is that it tends to be the smallest room in the house. Getting in and out of the bath can also be very challenging. A walk-in bath may be the answer. 

• Getting Upstairs

If you live in a two-storey house, there’s the problem of negotiating the stairs. A lift can be installed on the staircase with a chair that swivels to make it easy to get in and out of. Installing a lift is another option. If you’re wondering how much a through floor lift costs, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s most definitely more convenient than having to move to a new house.

Other improvements you could choose to make include raising the furniture so someone in a wheelchair can comfortably sit at a table, reach items on a coffee table or move from their wheelchair to the sofa. Furniture coasters work very well if you only need to raise things an inch or so. Replacing standard round doorknobs with level type handles makes it easier for the door to be pulled open or closed. If you have gravel paths or a driveway, these are going to be very difficult to manage in a wheelchair. Replace such areas with concrete or levelled paving slabs.