Injuries, physical disabilities, surgeries and bone density issues can make it difficult to be mobile. They can also make it challenging to get in and out of a home, including the home of a relative or friend. With a few changes, your home can present less of a challenge for people with unique physical needs.
Ensure that banisters outside and inside your home are secure. When you pull on banisters or place weight on them, make sure that they don’t pull away from the ground or wall. This could keep people with physical disabilities safe. It could also help to keep children safe.
Although banisters are often used by people who are injured, aging or disabled, ensuring that your banisters are sturdy isn’t the only step that you can take to create a home that supports people with unique physical needs. Additional ways that you could create a home environment that supports people with physical disabilities include:
Wide walkways – Walkways that are at least 36 inches wide offer added accessibility to your home. Exterior coverings should be high enough to prevent tall people from having to bend over to enter your house without bumping their head or shoulders. Sidewalks should be free of debris, boxes and items that children and adults would have to climb over or maneuver around.
Wheelchair ramp – A wheelchair ramp needs to be sturdy and wide enough to support several hundred pounds. During inclement weather, including hard rains and icy conditions, the ramp should be cleared and kept dry.
Bathroom support rails – People with conditions like sickle cell anemia, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s may need to hold onto a railing to get in and out of the tub or shower. So too might someone who suffered an injury or who is recovering from surgery. Hardware stores sell steel bathroom support rails, but, they must be properly installed. You could hire a professional to install support rails.
Adequate lighting – Motion detector lights outside your home serve multiple purposes, including deterring burglars and preventing falls. The lights can be installed near front and back walkways and along roof corners.
Nonslip surfaces – Keep sidewalks shoveled and salted in the winter. You could also place rubber mats on porches and inside doorways year round to prevent slips and falls after a rain or whenever people get their feet or shoes wet.
Open floor plan – An open floor plan is great at making it easy for parents to keep an eye on young children. An open floor plan also reduces the numbers of doors that people have to push through to go from room to room.
Keyless door entry – Similar to benefits derived from an open floor plan, keyless door entry can take the strain out of fumbling with keys. You can also opt for door handles that operate with levers rather than knobs to reduce the numbers of times people with arthritis and other tissue and muscle issues have to work to open doors.
Level flooring – Uneven flooring can cause people to stumble, trip and fall. Whether floors are carpeted, tiled or hardwood, ensure that they are even or level. Replace areas that have started to curl or bubble.
Security alarms – Install security alarms that not only alert first responders to burglaries but that also alert first responders to falls and accidents on your property.
Cabinets – If needed, lower cabinets so that shorter adults can reach plates, cups and glasses. However, avoid placing frequently used items in bottom cabinets that require adults to bend to the floor, potentially making it hard for aging adults or people recovering from injuries to reach the items.
The National Directory of Home Modification Resources and state agencies list organizations that provide tools that you can add to your home to make it easier for aging parents, injured people and children and adults with physical disabilities to visit or live in your home. Who knows? Modifications that you make today could allow you to remain in your home years from now.