Houses aren’t automatically designed for people with disabilities, for the elderly or for those that struggle to be mobile. It’s up to us to adapt our own homes if we find that we need to make changes.
A typical house is designed for someone of average height, with full mobility and a good level of stamina. How can you make changes so that your home is better suited for a wheelchair user?
Ramps are the most obvious adaptation, and are among the cheapest. Some people arrange for a full, professional ramp installation while others buy temporary ramps, telescopic ramps, threshold ramps and folding ramps that can be put up anywhere and taken down again as needed.
A more expensive adaptation is the addition of a wheelchair lift. These don’t have to take up a great deal of space, but you do need somewhere suitable for placement. Wheelchair lifts can also be quite expensive, though perhaps not as costly as the modifications that might be required if upper floors are no longer accessible.
Ground-Floor Bedroom and Bathroom
Being in a wheelchair might mean that the upper floors of a house become out-of-bounds territory. If that’s the case then ground-floor bedrooms and bathrooms become the most essential adaptations. You’ll have plenty of options depending on your budget, from converting existing rooms to installing garden rooms if you’re short on space.
Remember that beds, baths and showers may also need to be adapted within their respective rooms. Wheel-in showers and beds that can be raised and lowered are vital for some individuals, while sinks and toilets may need to be set at an appropriate height and outfitted with grab rails and alarm cords.
Most doorways aren’t designed for someone that can’t simply walk through the door. Adapting your house to extend the width of doorways is a bigger and more expensive task, but one of the most essential if you’re looking to make changes to your existing property rather than moving elsewhere.
Lowered Cupboards and Appliances
Even able-bodied people of below average height often struggle to access cupboards. Lowering your cupboards so that they can be reached from a sitting position can be an invaluable adaptation for a wheelchair user, but it’s equally important not to drop them too low. Ground-level cupboards are just as hard to reach from a wheelchair as cupboards that are much too high!
Ideally, kitchen appliances, sinks and countertops should be set at an appropriate height. Wheelchair users should be able to not only get around their home, but utilize its various features.
Some of us are born needing to use a wheelchair, but in many cases people need wheelchairs for the first time at a later stage of their life. We can’t always be prepared for wheelchair adaptations, but the costs of making changes can be high.
Don’t forget to look for financial help from charities and government initiatives if you need to make changes to your home, and to prioritize your modifications in order to make the most of your money.
Andrew Atkinson serves as Managing Director of the UK-based e-commerce website Ecuva, with a vast product range covering health and well-being.