It can be challenging to retrofit a home for wheelchair accessibility, but it’s not impossible. In fact, many remodeling companies recognize the growing demand for this kind of service and are becoming familiar with the design features that wheelchair users value most. If you are considering updating your home to make it more accessible, focus on the areas that have the biggest effect on day-to-day activities: ramps, doorways, bathrooms and the kitchen. Any money you invest in these areas will be well spent.
Ramps and doorways
Most homes have doorways that are too narrow for wheelchair accessibility, and many have a front entrance that won’t accommodate a wheelchair at all. These issues can be solved by widening key doorways and installing a wheelchair ramp to the main entrance. Have your contractor measure every doorway in your home and identify those that need to be changed to allow a wheelchair to pass through. You’ll need a 32-inch opening for doors that are approached straight-on and a 36-inch opening for any doors requiring a turn.
Adding a wheelchair ramp can increase a home’s wheelchair accessibility, but steer clear of wood construction products. These tend to require substantial, ongoing maintenance and can become extremely slippery when they’re wet. Aluminum and concrete ramps are more durable and have a rougher surface that is safer to use.
Increasing wheelchair accessibility in the bathroom is a matter of installing products to make bathing and toileting safe and easy. Shower and toilet grab bars are a must for stability, as is a raised toilet seat. Consider replacing bathtubs with showers that have built-in seating, or if space isn’t an issue, look for a roll-in shower.
When cabinets are lowered to 30 inches, they immediately become more accessible. Installing shallow sinks, single-lever faucets and sliding shelves will also help wheelchair users manage their time in the kitchen more independently.