How to Make Your Home Wheelchair Accessible

Making your home more accessible for elderly family members ...

Thousands of Canadians cohabitate with a loved one who has mobility issues. For these families, it may be necessary to make modifications to their home so it’s easy to move inside and outside with ease.

When you are not living with a disability, these small changes may seem minor, but they can mean everything to a person with limited mobility who is trying to regain their independence, especially if that person lives alone or is in a wheelchair.

Eliminate obstacles surrounding the home

Install access ramps and remove door sills since they are a significant obstacle for people in wheelchairs. Even one inch of elevation can be difficult to cross in a wheelchair and in some cases may even completely hinder access.

Widen door frames

To allow wheelchair access, some door frames will need to be widened. Although not always easy to accommodate, the ideal space to allow a wheelchair to swivel adequately is a circumference of 5 feet (1.52 m).

Make the kitchen functional

When it comes to adapting your kitchen, there are two points to keep in mind. First, someone who uses a wheelchair will need free hands so they can move around. Second, standard counters are often too high for someone who is seated in a wheelchair. If possible, the recommended counter height for someone in a wheelchair is 32 inches (81.28 cm). But if the counters will be shared, you may need to compromise at 34 inches (86.36 cm).

Remember to also free the space under the counters and the sink to make room for the wheelchair, otherwise, these spaces become very uncomfortable to work in. Give preference to built-in ovens and fridges with a bottom freezer for three reasons: burns are less likely, food is more accessible and the wheelchair can move when the oven door opens. Avoid cabinet uppers as well as deep storage in lower cabinets. Instead, install sliding drawers for better access.

Improve mobility in the bathroom

Ensure there is enough room to allow easy access from the wheelchair to the toilet and install grab bars. The shower should also be free of sills so a wheelchair may be rolled next to a seat. Here too, you should free the space under the sink and lower the counters if possible.

Adapt the bedroom for ease of use

Depending on the person’s needs, it’s generally a good idea to free up enough space around the edge of the bed so the person can easily get in and out. Another option is to set up an electric bed that can be lowered or raised, as well as grab bars to ease transfers and movements.

Of course, there are many more considerations to help make your home more accessible that an expert can help identify. Depending on your province, you could be eligible for funding to help with the necessary renovations.

Some homes – especially homes with stairs – aren’t easily modifiable and in those cases, it might be better to sell. If you’re in the market for a home that is wheelchair friendly, aim for a one-storey property or one that has already been made accessible.

In the market for a home to meet your accessibility needs? As always, your Pilon Real Estate Group Agent is your best ally to help find the perfect home to meet your needs.

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