Renovations: The Basics Of Wheelchair Accessible Construction

The basics of making any home wheelchair friendly.

As more Americans are aging, home renovations that allow for mobility are on the rise. Many older adults have and use powered wheelchairs and scooters and are remodeling their homes to allow for maneuverability. Wheelchair accessibility is essential for these older people and others with handicaps or disabilities. Renovating allows the elderly and the handicapped to remain in their homes and continue to function in a normal, safe environment.

Renovating an existing home to match the American's with Disability Act standards can be very expensive and unnecessary. The standards were designed with businesses in mind, but renovating your home to emulate some of the basic requirements will add freedom and independence to those who are wheelchair bound. Many of the ideas below can be done by anyone who is handy with hand tools and others can be contracted by professionals. None are excessively expensive and some are simply free.

1. Standard doorways are 24" in width. Wheelchairs need at least 30". Two carpenters could widen at least the existing bedroom and bathroom doorways in a day.

2. Replace the existing tub with a roll in shower. This can be done by professional carpenters and a plumber in less than a day.

3. A do-it yourself project could include installing grab bars and shower seats in the existing tub or shower, allowing for safer bathing.

4. Replace faucets in the bath and kitchen with lever faucets. This allows for easier off/on for both the handicapped and the elderly.

5. Lower closet clothing rails to approximately two feet from the floor.

6. Remove cabinets beneath the sinks in both kitchen and bath. This will allow the wheelchair bound access to the faucets and sinks.

7. Rearrange furniture to allow for a five foot turning space and leave at least a thirty-two inch space for travel.

8. Replace regular doorknobs with lever handles and attach a string to the new handle. This will allow the handicapped to close a door behind them.

9. Place small blocks of wood beneath the legs of existing tables, which will allow a person to sit at the table normally.

10. If replacing appliances, purchase those with front controls.

11. Build a wheelchair ramp outside to at least one of the entryway doors to the home.

12. Replace the shower head in the bathroom with a hand held model.

13. Remove inside doors altogether and replace with curtains or drapes.

14. Remove area rugs and carpeting to allow for an easier glide across the floors.

15. Make sure at least one telephone and all smoke detectors are within reach of the wheelchair bound person.

16. Build or purchase an easy to open medicine cabinet and install it at the proper height for easy access.

17. Add shelving to closets to keep most items within reach.

18. Replace gravel walkways outside with concrete, asphalt or smooth brick.

19. Purchase a storage bin on rollers to allow moving of heavier objects.

20. Remove cabinet doors in the kitchen and the pantry to allow for easiest access to items. Store everyday items at a comfortable height on the shelves.

While not all of the above suggestions are required, each one will help to make the wheelchair bound person feel more independent and will add to their quality of life.

© High Speed Ventures 2011