Home Improvement & Renovating

Top 3 Areas to Make Your House More Accessible

Top 3 Areas to Make Your House More Accessible

Can Grandma get up the front steps with her walker safely? Will your friend with visual impairment find their way safely to your front door? Is your home safe for children?

We can do many things to make our homes safer and more accessible. Every situation will be different; have a look at your local accessibility laws as well as grant programs when thinking of making modifications to your home.

Drop by Tri State Building Center to learn how to make changes that will prevent accidents and make your home safer for all ages and abilities.

1. A Safe and Welcoming Entrance

Is your front entrance safe and welcoming to all visitors? Uneven paving stones, cracks, or slippery gravel can be a tripping hazard. Is the pathway to your front steps and front door wide enough for someone using a walker or wheelchair?

Make all needed repairs to your outdoor walkways and driveway, or pave your pathway for a smooth entrance to your home. The recommended width is 48” to accommodate a wheelchair or walker.

Garage – Install a ramp at the entrance to your garage. The garage door needs a clearance of at least nine feet high to allow a wheelchair van to enter.

Steps – If your steps are uneven or steep, it’s time to make changes. Think about building them with lower risers and deeper treads to enable someone with a walker or rollator to use them. Repair cracks in concrete steps and replace worn wooden steps and porch floorboards. Use a matte finish slip-proof paint on concrete steps. Cover wooden steps with slip-proof runners.

Ramps – Install a permanent or temporary ramp, at least 36” wide, with a secure handrail for people using a wheelchair or walker. Consult your local building code to ensure the correct incline, usually 1” per foot.

Handrails – Do you have a solid, easy-to-grasp handrail for your family and guests when going upstairs or using the ramp to your front door? You should be able to completely wrap your hand around the rail for a secure and safe grip.

Balusters – Repair or replace damaged vertical railings and ensure they are up to code for safety to prevent small children from falling through.

Thresholds and doorways – Even a short ridge on your threshold can be a tripping hazard, so if it is not ½” or less, cover it with a small ramp. Are your doorways wide enough for a wheelchair or walker to comfortably fit through? You will need to widen the doorway if it is too narrow.

Lift – You may want to install a lift at your back or front door to help people using a wheelchair go up and down safely to enter the house.

Door handles – Replace all your door knobs, both exterior and interior, with levers, which are much easier to grasp. Door handles should be at least 36” high.

Position your doorbell and mailbox where someone in a chair can reach it, about 48” high.

2. Make Safe Spaces Inside Your Home

To make it easier for everyone to move around your home, ensure your furniture spacing allows enough room for a wheelchair or walker to fit through. Hallways in your home will need to be at least 42” wide. You may need to replace traditional hinged doors with folding, sliding, or pocket doors to create more space for wheelchairs. Position chairs in convenient places throughout your home for added safety. Make it easier for people with visual impairment to see by painting walls a light color and everything else in a contrasting color, e.g., a bright color on electrical outlets, switches, and door handles. To help people with hearing loss, you can reduce echoes and noise in your home with carpeting, acoustic wall and ceiling material, heavy curtains, and double-pane windows.

Grab bars – Grab bars or safety handrails are not just for the bathroom. Install them where someone will appreciate the extra support: next to the bed and in the hallway or kitchen. Ensure you install the grab bars securely into the wall studs and that they will support the weight of the person using them.

Safety transfer pole – If someone in your household needs extra support while standing or moving to a seat in any room in the home, install a floor-to-ceiling transfer pole.

Kitchen – Install lower-height appliances with controls on the front, countertops, sink, and kitchen cabinets. Move the microwave onto a lower shelf. Make sure there is enough legroom under the counter for a wheelchair. Add pullouts in cupboards for easier access to food and supplies. Keep the most needed items within easy reach. Use a single lever faucet with a spray head you can pull out.

Bathroom – Does your bathroom’s layout allow a person using a wheelchair or walker to enter and move around safely? The doorway should be at least 42” wide. Most falls happen in the bathroom – anchor grab bars securely into the wall or bathtub surround.

Sink – You will find many lower-height sinks for people using wheelchairs.

Toilet – There are a range of accessible toilets available, but make sure the toilet you choose will fit in your bathroom. Accessible toilets are designed for safety, with raised seats and support handles. Make sure there is enough space for ease of access with a wheelchair. Install grab bars near the toilet and a dual-purpose toilet roll holder and towel racks for additional support.

Walk-in shower – Accessible showers have a low or no threshold for people to walk or roll their wheelchairs into. Install grab bars, a shower seat, a lower-height handheld shower, anti-scalding safety controls, and slip-resistant flooring. Allow a five-foot radius for the wheelchair user to turn around.

Safety rails on a traditional bathtub – Prevent falls in the bathroom by installing grab bars securely on the bathtub surround and nearby walls.

Slip-proof flooring – Choose floor surfaces for your bathroom that will not become slippery when wet. Vinyl is a popular choice, as well as slip-proof ceramic tile, laminate, and hardwood flooring.

Rugs and carpeting – Avoid using area rugs that can move or impede wheels. If you do use carpets, place a non-slip rug pad underneath.

3. Improve Your Lighting

Make it easier for everyone in the house to see light switches at night with illuminated switches. Replace traditional light switches with rocker-style switches that are wider and easier to press. Mount them 42” above the floor. Mount electrical outlets 12” to 16” above the floor.

Install motion and voice-activated lighting throughout your home for added safety.

Smart technology is making living independently a lot easier, with motion and voice-activated lighting, voice and remote-controlled appliances, smart locks, and vibrating alerts for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, to name a few.

Stop by Tri State Building Center today. Our team is ready to answer your questions about making your home more accessible.

Disclaimer: The information and resources in these articles and on this website are available for informational and educational purposes only. The articles provided on this website are created with every reasonable effort to ensure completeness and accuracy. In doing so, the article writers, publishers, and the business that this website represents assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or opposed interpretation of the articles and under no circumstance will these parties be held liable for any direct, indirect and/or consequential damages of any kind incurred from undertaking tasks outlined in the articles or on this website. In addition, it is suggested that readers check by-laws, zoning laws and building codes of your local area and country.


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