My brother got into a skiing accident recently. It was nothing too serious, and he’d recover in a few weeks, the doctor said. But as he navigated our house on his crutches, our whole family came to realise one sad fact about most houses: they weren’t designed for people who aren’t able-bodied. Stairs and bathtubs are no big deal to most of us who are young and healthy, but for people with mobility issues, they’re everyday hurdles that they struggle through.
Whether you want to make these improvements for your own future, or if you want to make your home a better place for any elderly or persons with disabilities (PWDs) you may be living with, here are a few tips for building a more accessible home.
1. Install ramps or stairlifts
Even in a single-story house, stairs may still be present on the porch or the doorway. If you’re living with someone in a wheelchair or has limited mobility, install ramps if the stairway is wide enough for it. If not, install a stairlift instead. Stairlifts come in a wide variety of styles and price points, so you can find one that’s suitable for your needs and budget.
2. Remove bathing obstacles and hazards
Bathing presents many obstacles for PWDs. Wet tile can become slippery and very dangerous, and bathtubs are challenging to get into. Invest in a walk-in bath, which will allow you to get inside without lifting your legs. Most walk-in baths also have anti-slip interiors, which minimises the risk of falls. Treat the bathroom floor with an anti-slip solution, or just use an anti-slip mat that won’t interfere with wheelchairs or canes.
3. Reconsider your home layout
You may need to rearrange your furniture if your house’s current layout makes it difficult for PWDs to get around. Minimise sharp turns and avoid cluttering the passageway. Move necessary items to lower shelves and secure fragile items or keep them out of reach. If you are living with someone visually impaired, add padding to the sharp corners of furniture and do not move things around too often. They sometimes rely on memory to navigate, and it will be easier for them to live in a house with a permanent layout.
4. Replace doorknobs
Doorknobs are difficult to use for those with grip problems or injured hands. Replace these instead with lever handles, which are much easier to open. You could also consider automating doors for added convenience. While most families and caretakers would be content with giving their elderly and PWDs round-the-clock assistance, providing mobility options and eliminating their biggest obstacles gives them the dignity to live their day to day lives with some degree of independence. The ability to adapt to their disabilities has a positive impact on their mental health, which also affects the rest of the home in a big way. The first step in creating a harmonious and happy household is to ensure that every person living inside feels safe and comfortable, especially those most vulnerable.