Designing a home to suit all physical abilities

 

*This is a collaborative post*

 

Unfortunately, the vast majority of homes simply aren’t set up for people who have a physical disability. That means, if you have a family member living with you, or even one who visits regularly, you will probably have to do some work to ensure that your beautiful home is perfectly set up for everyone, by making it more accessible.

Here are some tips to ensure that everyone can live comfortably in your home:



Widen Your Hallway

If you have a family member who uses a wheelchair, perhaps the most important thing you can do is widen your hallway so that they can easily get into your home. It’s also a good idea to remove as many stairs as possible and make the floors in your hallway slightly sloped, which means that wheelchairs can more easily be operated. Having such a setup also makes it easier for pushing a stroller, and your kids (if you have any) are less likely to fall and injure themselves moving from floor to floor when there are no stairs to deal with.



Stair Lifts

If you can’t remove the stairs, either because to do so would be too expensive, or building regulations won’t allow it, an alternative could be to install disabled platform stair lifts. These can be used with wheelchairs which means that it is very easy and safe for disabled family members to make use of the whole house. Just keep an eye in the lifts because kids do love to play with them!



Install Lever Handles

If your kitchen cabinets or any of the doors in your home are fitted with knob handles, switching to lever handles would be a good idea simply because knobs can be difficult to grip and turn for people who have issues with their hands and arms, or for older people suffering from arthritis. You can buy some very pretty lever handles, so this shouldn’t be much of a hardship at all. After all, making your home accessible, does not in any way mean that your home will be uglier as a result.



Widen Your Parking Area

It’s not only your hallways that need to be widened to accommodate disabled family members; your drive or parking space will probably need to be modified too because it can be quite difficult to get out of a car in a wheelchair when there’s only a small gap either side! Again, modifying your parking space will likely benefit the rest of the family too, making it easier to juggle lots of shopping bags, strollers, bicycles etc.



Install Two-Way-Switches

Two-way light switches, where there is one switch by the door, and one next to the bed/seating area make life much easier for disabled individuals, for whom getting up to turn the lights on and off is not always as easy as it is for us able-bodied folks. Of course, they’re also pretty convenient for us too, allowing us to switch off the light when we’ve finished reading, or avoid falling over the junk on our bedroom floors in the dark.



Adjustable Shelves

Shelves can be pretty problematic for wheelchair users and people with other physical disabilities which make stretching a problem, which is why, if you want your home to be accessible, you should invest in shelving units which are either adjustable or which can be pulled out with ease. This goes for worktops too. These kind of shelves and worktops are pretty good for kids too, because they’re easier to reach for little ones, encouraging them to put things away and enabling them to help out in the kitchen when you’re baking, for example.

Declutter

Kitchen/dining area photo from the living room.


Apart from adding lots of new improved features to your home, you should also think about adopting a more minimalist interior style. The fewer things you have cluttering up your home, the more floor space you will have, which will make it easier for all family members to go about their business unhindered. This doesn’t mean you should get rid of anything that isn’t essential, but if you can try to use multi-use pieces of furniture so that you don’t end up cluttering every inch of your home, it would be good. Using vertical storage is another good way of decreasing any potential obstructions, as is placing your furniture, where possible, up against the wall, so you have more useable space on the ground.


A Better Bathroom

The bathroom can be a particularly tricky place for the disabled. Often, it is a too small space, which means that getting in and out to do one’s business can be difficult, If you do manage it, then there’s the stress of trying to get safely into the bath or shower to contend with. Things that can assist with this include widening the doors (this is something you should consider doing throughout the whole property), installing hoists and chairs to make bath time safer and using anti-slip flooring.



Privacy

Another thing to consider is privacy. When you’re in a wheelchair, your eye level is obviously a lot lower than the average person’s which means that privacy concerns such as intrusive windows and appropriately place peepholes can become an issue. To solve this problem, be sure to install a peephole or window, in the lower half of your door, and use frosted glass to maintain privacy where necessary.



Slip-Resistant Flooring

Slip-resistant flooring might be slightly more important in the bathroom, but really, if you want to make your home as disabled person-friendly as you possibly can, you should fit slip-resistant flooring throughout. You should also keep rugs, which can so easily be tripped over, to a minimum, using them, if at all, only in the rooms where accessibility doesn’t need to be an issue (individual bedrooms).



As you can see, making your home more accessible does require a fair bit of work, but most of the changes you make will actually benefit you all, and it is so worth it to ensure that everybody feels totally at ease and independent within their own environment.

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