If someone is now using a wheelchair and wants to live more comfortably in their home, then some adjustments will probably have to be made. Creating a wheelchair accessible home, however, can be easier than many people think. It also doesn’t have to cost a fortune to make effective changes and a more accessible environment.
Most people with a spinal cord injury who are using a wheelchair will view the world differently because of their disability. An innocent-looking step in front of the door becomes a huge barrier. The mirror that used to be at the right height when they were able to stand, is now too high.
Some of the changes that will need to be made should actually be relatively minor. They might, for example, move things around in the kitchen so that they can reach them better.
Other changes, however, may be more substantial. It might be sensible to put in a lift so they are able to get to the bedroom or there may be a need for specially designed bathroom where someone can shower easily or use the toilet.
Each individual is different and what works for one wheelchair user when making a home more accessible may not suit another.
Here we take a look at the common ways in which a home can be made more wheelchair friendly.
The most obvious area where changes will be made is the access requirements. The front door, for example, may have one or two steps leading up the entrance. Putting a ramp in place will mean that the individual is able to quickly get in and out without any assistance.
A lot of the process of improving wheelchair accessibility is about allowing the individual independence so that they don’t need a friend or caregiver to help them do certain things or get from A to B.
If there are two floors in the home, it makes sense to put in a wheelchair lift or install a stairlift. If someone has difficulty getting in and out of their chair, they might need a hoist in the bedroom, the bathroom or the living room.
The good news is that there is a wide range of assistive technology available nowadays that can support wheelchair users.
Providing a ramp to the doorway may be the first thing someone might think of when it comes to accessibility but it’s not the last. There may be a need to widen the doorway because there isn’t enough room for the wheelchair to get through comfortably.
Some people might even want to change the height of the peephole so they can see who is outside when someone calls. Fortunately, modern video doorbells have largely put an end to this for wheelchair users.
The bathroom may be another area where accessibility is a challenge. There might not be enough room for turning the wheelchair, for example. For the average-sized wheelchair, there needs to be at least 47 inches of room in front of the toilet to ensure comfortable access.
A popular and effective modification involves installing a lower washbasin and a shower with easy access together with rails around the walls so that there is plenty of support.
Like bathrooms, kitchens can also be problematic. From the height of the cooker to the top shelf of the fridge and preparation surfaces, there are a lot things to be considered.
Again, room for turning a wheelchair is crucially important. There has to be plenty of room in the kitchen, not least for safety reasons.
Also, units will need to be lowered, including the sink, so that they are much easier to access. Cupboards and storage units are fairly easy to move but appliances such as cookers and washing machines can be a little more problematic. Hobs and ovens can be designed for use at a lower level but this needs to be done by a specialist installer.
Most people don’t realize the challenges that someone in a wheelchair faces when it comes to simply having a home that is accessible. It can take a lot of work to get things just right. But with a little patience, the latest gadgets/solutions and some ingenuity, it’s possible to create a home environment where anyone in a wheelchair can feel fully comfortable and maintain independence.
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