Maneuvering a wheelchair at home can be difficult. Most homes are not designed for wheelchair users, especially in smaller rooms such as bathrooms, kitchens, and pantries. Planning and preparing for home improvements is a must if you encounter this challenge at home. With creativity and some strategic planning, even the most challenging spaces can be transformed into an accessible oasis. Here are four home improvement ideas to get you started:
Multi-Level Home Access
Ensuring that your home is wheelchair-accessible is important, especially important if you live in a multi-level home. If your home’s other floors aren’t accessible, you may struggle to get around and cannot enjoy the space and rooms on those floors. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to make your home more accessible, regardless of how many levels it has. You can look into stair lifts or elevators, so you have the means to go up or down. But if you want to keep your stairs as they are, or you have more than two floors, then an elevator might better suit your needs. You can have home elevators installed that are small and unobtrusive but make a world of difference in your ability to move around your home. This will enable you to enjoy your home, no matter what floor you’re on.
Standard-sized doorways can pose a challenge for wheelchair users. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), doorways should at least be 32 inches in clear width to accommodate wheelchairs. If your doorways are too narrow, you may need to have them widened. This is a job better left to a professional contractor. Moreover, you should also consider getting rid of some of your interior doors if they aren’t necessary. For example, you can replace a door between your kitchen and dining room with a wide-opening archway. This would save you the hassle of opening and closing a door every time you want to go from one room to the other.
The bathroom is one of the most challenging spaces in the home for someone who uses a wheelchair. Aside from getting in and out of the bathtub, reaching shelves or the bathroom mirror can also be challenging. Depending on the layout of your bathroom, you may need to make some adjustments to make it more wheelchair accessible. For example, you may need to install grab bars near the toilet, shower, and bathtub. Along with this, you may also need to install a shower seat or replace the bathtub with a walk-in shower. If budget allows, you may even want to consider renovating the bathroom to create a roll-in shower with plenty of space for maneuvering. Regardless of how you decide to design your shower or bathtub, make sure you have at least 60 inches of space in the bathroom so you can make 180-degree turns easily.
Wheelchairs are challenging to maneuver on rugs and high-pile carpets. Since these materials can be soft, they offer resistance against wheels and make it hard to move around. If you have this flooring, consider replacing it with hardwood, laminate, or tile. These more durable options can withstand high traffic and are easier to keep clean. But you also have to ensure they aren’t too slippery, which can be a safety hazard.
If you use a wheelchair, you’ll need plenty of open space for easy navigation around your home. It’s better to ask for help from family or friends to move around your furniture so that you have a clear path. However, when rearranging your furniture, ensure everything you need is within reach. This will make it more convenient and comfortable for you while at home. Likewise, consider getting rid of furniture you don’t even use and is only taking up valuable space. For example, an ottoman in the middle of the room can be a pain to get around, so it may be better to find another home or keep it in storage.
In terms of the arrangement, one option is to move furniture to the wall so you have space at the center of the room to move and turn. For instance, you can put a sofa against the wall and put two chairs at an angle in front of it. This will give you more space to move around while still providing seating for guests. If you have a coffee table, it may be better to get a smaller one or even get rid of it altogether, so you have more space to maneuver.
Learning about how to make your home more accessible will ensure you’re comfortable and can move around freely without assistance. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your independence just because you use a wheelchair. With a few adjustments, you can live life on your own terms.