Home should be a haven — a place to let loose and be yourself. Yet, to millions nationwide, it’s just another obstacle course. Unfortunately, the layout, fixtures, and flooring do not always work well for people with disabilities.
As a parent or family member to someone with special needs, you may want to change your house to fit their needs. This list of accommodations will help you create a safe space for anyone living in or visiting your home.
Add More Light
Adding new fixtures will shed literal light on the situation. Well-lit areas become less of a hazard since your loved one can see any obstacles in their way. People with mobility issues or low vision need clear, bright paths to navigate better.
Add task lighting to any frequented spots. Floor and table lamps spread throughout your home are also useful. Just ensure you tuck the cords out of the way.
Upgrade Your Alarm System
Knowing when to evacuate a home in case of fire, smoke or carbon monoxide is essential to survival. Unfortunately, the average alarm system is useless for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
If your child or loved one has these special needs, you can install a new alarm system designed to alert with flashing lights and vibrations as well as noise. Then, everyone in your home will know it’s time to get to safety.
Space Furniture Appropriately
Whether your living room looks like the front page of a magazine or not, it’s likely to be an obstacle course for your loved one with special needs. Wheelchairs and other mobility devices need plenty of clearance to maneuver properly.
Ideally, you want to include a 5-foot radius for turning in critical areas and plenty of space in pathways between furniture. Rearranging to meet these needs will allow your child or family member to navigate independently and confidently.
Include Grab Bars
Grab bars are an accessibility tool to help people with mobility needs stay stable and lift or lower themselves. Having these by the toilet, in the shower and by the bed can reduce the chance of falls and increase independence.
Change Handles and Door Knobs
Your handle and knob styles throughout your home can change how easily your child or loved one can navigate and care for themselves. Rounded options require a solid grip and extensive hand mobility.
People with special needs affecting the arms, hands or fingers may find these hard to move independently. Replacing fixtures and door handles with an elongated, lever-style option decreases the grip and pressure needed.
Add a Ramp
Your exterior steps are a significant barrier to entry for anyone who uses a wheelchair or other mobility device. A permanent ramp is the best idea if your child has special physical needs.
If you have extended family with mobility needs who visit you, you can invest in a temporary ramp you can move as needed.
Install a Lift or Elevator
Homes with more than one floor also pose a problem. People with low vision or special mobility needs would benefit from alternative options, like a stair lift or elevator, for going up or down a floor.
Stair lifts are cheaper and involve less work, but they also take up valuable space on the staircase. You can install elevators as an addition outside your home or in a previously unused corner, but they cost more.
Add Smart Tech
Adding a smart system to your home can increase the quality of life for family members with low vision, low hearing or physical mobility needs. They can adjust the temperature, open doors, speak to someone at the door and much more by using voice commands or tapping the right button on a screen.
Maintain Smooth Flooring Throughout
Carpeting may feel great underfoot, but it makes movement with mobility devices difficult. Rugs or loose carpets are also a common tripping hazard for people with low vision.
Stick to one smooth flooring type throughout your house for the safest environment. Ideal options include vinyl plank, hardwood or tile.
Upgrade the Closet
Activities as straightforward as picking an outfit for the day become complicated for people with low vision or special mobility needs. Standard-built closets have high bars for hanging and shelves above for stacking other items.
Upgrade the space for your child or family member by installing lower bars and shelves for easy access. If your loved one has low vision, create specific sections for each type of item, so they can find what they want more easily.
Install a Walk-In Shower or Tub
Getting in and out of the tub can challenge people with different movement abilities. You need strength, stability and flexibility to maneuver in and out without getting hurt. Installing a walk-in shower or tub removes the entry barrier and makes cleaning a more independent activity.
Widen Hallways and Doorways
If your child or family member uses a mobility device, like a wheelchair or walker, to get around, your doorways and hallways need to be wide enough to accommodate them.
Measure how wide their device is and plan for several inches extra to make room for their hands and for turning around.
Maintenance Is the Key to Long-Term Accessibility
Once you have your accommodations, you must maintain the new status quo. It’s tempting to rearrange furniture or change out accessories.
Adding a rug to the living room or rearranging the dining room may not seem like a big deal to you, but it means weeks of adapting for your child or other family members. The longer you can keep everything the same, the better experience your loved ones will have in your home.