5 Tips for Renovating Your Home to Be Wheelchair-Accessible

Between 15,000 and 19,000 medical malpractice suits are filed annually in the U.S., according to Medical News Today. If you’ve suffered an irreversible injury, renovating your home to be wheelchair-accessible is not only a matter of comfort but also of safety and independence. Here are five essential tips to guide you through the process.

1. Plan Your Layout Thoughtfully

When renovating for wheelchair accessibility, the layout of your home is a critical factor. The goal is to create open spaces that are easy to navigate and free of obstacles.

  • Open Floor Plans: Consider removing non-load-bearing walls to create an open floor plan. This can significantly improve mobility by providing ample space for turning and maneuvering a wheelchair. Open floor plans not only enhance accessibility but also modernize the appearance of your home.
  • Widen Doorways and Hallways: Standard doorways are often too narrow for wheelchairs. To accommodate, doorways should be widened to at least 32 inches, though 36 inches is preferable. Hallways should be at least 36 inches wide to ensure smooth navigation. Using pocket doors or barn doors can also help save space and improve accessibility.

2. Install Ramps and Elevators

Steps can be a significant barrier for wheelchair users. Installing ramps and elevators can make a home fully accessible.

  • Ramps: For entryways with steps, installing a ramp is essential. Ramps should have a gentle slope, ideally a 1:12 ratio (for every inch of height, the ramp should be 12 inches long). This ensures safety and ease of use. Additionally, consider adding handrails for extra support.
  • Residential Elevators: In multi-story homes, residential elevators can provide seamless access between floors. While this may seem like a significant investment, it can greatly enhance mobility and independence. There are various compact and stylish elevator designs that can be integrated into your home without compromising aesthetics.

3. Modify Bathrooms for Accessibility

Bathrooms are one of the most critical areas to modify for wheelchair accessibility due to the need for both space and safety. With 39% of homeowners renovating their homes to increase enjoyment, you can use this opportunity to create a beautiful oasis when you bathe! Here are some wheelchair-friendly to incorporate in your new bathroom.

  • Roll-In Showers: Traditional bathtubs can be challenging for wheelchair users. Roll-in showers with no threshold are a much safer and more convenient option. These showers should be spacious enough to allow easy movement and include grab bars, a handheld showerhead, and a built-in bench.
  • Accessible Sinks and Toilets: Sinks should be mounted at a lower height to allow wheelchair users to roll under them. Faucets with lever handles or touchless sensors are easier to use. Toilets should be of a height that allows easy transfer from a wheelchair, typically 17 to 19 inches from the floor. Adding grab bars around the toilet area can provide additional support.

4. Choose Accessible Flooring

The type of flooring in your home can significantly impact wheelchair accessibility. Opt for smooth, hard surfaces that are easy to navigate.

  • Hardwood and Laminate Flooring: Hardwood and laminate flooring are excellent choices as they provide a smooth, level surface that is easy to roll over. These materials are also durable and easy to clean, making them practical for everyday use.
  • Avoid Thick Carpeting: While carpeting can add warmth and comfort, thick or high-pile carpets can be difficult for wheelchairs to maneuver. If you prefer carpeting, choose low-pile options or carpet tiles that can be easily replaced if damaged.

5. Automate and Upgrade for Ease of Use

Incorporating smart home technology and automated systems can significantly enhance the accessibility of your home.

  • Automated Doors: The demand for new entry doors increased by 8% from 2020 to 2021. With a wheelchair, having a door that’s wide enough is essential. On top of this, consider installing automated door openers to make it easier to enter the home as well as move from room to room. These systems can be operated via remote control, smartphone apps, or motion sensors.
  • Smart Home Systems: Smart home systems can control lighting, temperature, and security features with voice commands or mobile devices. This can greatly increase independence for wheelchair users. Consider installing smart switches, thermostats, and security cameras that are easily accessible and controllable.
  • Accessible Storage Solutions: Ensure that storage solutions are within reach for wheelchair users. Lowering cabinets, installing pull-out shelves, and using motorized shelving units can make daily tasks much easier and more convenient.

Renovating your home to be wheelchair-accessible following a medical malpractice suit requires careful planning and thoughtful modifications. These changes will not only improve the quality of life for wheelchair users but also increase the overall functionality and value of your home.

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