Adapting our homes to be more wheelchair friendly does not have to cost the earth, but there are some essential adaptations that have to be made in order to make the daily life of a wheelchair user as independent as possible. Whether it is for a wheelchair bound child that will grow up in your house, or for an adult that has only recently needed the use of a wheelchair, they will want to be able to do things they have always done, be it take a shower, help to set the table, or just move about their home easily and at their leisure. Follow the simple steps detailed below to ensure that the main living areas of your home are wheelchair friendly, none of them cost very much and are easy to install.
Make the road surfaces leading up to the house weather proof in all seasons by laying concrete down. For easy manoeuvrability around the home, loose carpet and rugs should be removed. You do not have to replace your furniture but try to change your room around so that there are wide enough spaces for a wheelchair to move around. Perhaps the most important change you can make to your house when making it more wheelchair friendly is a bump rail. Not only will a bump rail protect the wheels on the chair, but they will also prevent any damage caused by scrapes and impacts on the wall, which is costly to keep maintained. It is difficult to repair damage to walls and paint over any fixed areas whilst ensuring easy movement around the home.
The entrance to your house should be accessible by ramp at a shallow gradient, to prevent any extra strain when entering or exiting your home. It is important that the doorways are wide enough to easily fit a wheelchair through without the user banging their elbows. If you have narrow doorways, consider removing the door frame and leaving the space open plan so that the hassle of opening and closing the door is also reduced. If your doorways are already wide enough, swap the handles for lever style handles instead of door knobs as they are easier for a wheelchair user to master. To prevent any damage to the door or frame coming from constant banging by the wheels, install door edge protectors and this will preserve the aesthetics of the doorway.
Kitchens are probably the trickiest area of a house to make wheelchair friendly without a total redesign. However there are small things you can do to make everyday living more relaxing. Move favourite foods and snacks to cupboards on a lower level, and try to use roll away carts as kitchen surfaces as they are easier for a wheelchair to fit under. If you can, exchange appliances that have top level controls for those with the buttons on the front. This will make them easier and safer to use, especially the oven and hob.
The bathroom is where you are likely to spend the most money but it is essential to preserve the dignity and independence of any wheelchair user. Change your existing toilet bowl for one specifically designed for use by a commode wheelchair, and install a water powered seat that is height adjustable to make getting in and out of the bath or shower easier. Minor adaptations include installing grab bars on the walls and the side of the bath or shower, and covering the floor in a slip resistant surface for safety reasons.
None of these adaptations mean spending thousands of pounds or totally redesigning your home. They are simple steps that you can make to ensure that any wheelchair user living or visiting your home feels completely at ease and independent.