If you are a caregiver, a parent of a child with a disability, or have a visiting family member or friend with a disability, it’s important that your home is not only welcoming, but also safe and accommodating for every visitor or resident. Whether an elderly relative has recently had a surgery that limits his or her mobility or you have a child with Autism, there are easy and relatively inexpensive ways to modify your home for his or her safety and comfort. Safety Modifications to Consider for All Disabilities & Handicaps
A Safe and Welcoming Entrance: Ideally, an accessible home should have at least one entrance with no steps or with an alternative way to enter, such as a ramp. If your home entrance is not at ground level and is not equipped with a ramp, a nice and inexpensive option is a portable ramp. For more permanent alternatives, you can build a permanent ramp, a “bridge” from the house to a flat surface, or a weather resistant lift or elevator. Make sure all alternate entrances are properly coated with a tread and have suitable railings or grab bars to prevent falls.
A Suitable Doorway: If you are needing to accommodate for family members or visitors who require the use of a wheelchair, it’s important to make sure that your doorways are at least 32” wide. Depending on how your home is constructed, your doorways may or may not be an issue. Some simple modifications for widening a doorway include swing-away hinges or reversing the swing of the door. Additionally, you may consider removing the door temporarily, replacing the door with a wider one, or removing woodwork around the doorway. Pocket doors are a nice option and depending on privacy needs or desires, a fabric curtain may work as well, but make sure it is not a tripping hazard.
A Bathroom That Everyone Can Access: Your bathroom is a room that everyone must be able to access, but are often a challenge because a majority of bathrooms (particularly on the main level of a home) are small and narrow. Installing grab bars in the bathroom can prevent slipping and falling, but increase independence. Additionally, if more space is needed around the sink, you may want to consider removing cabinets below or around a sink (as they are rarely “valuable” space).
Special Considerations for Children with Disabilities
Children with disabilities have different safety needs and all modifications and accommodations should be altered to fit an individual’s specific needs. Caregivers of children with disabilities should remove, lock up, or put all dangerous items, from medications to sharp kitchen utensils, out of reach. It’s also important to have a safe and open floor plan in the areas of your home that children are most often to use such as the living room or a bedroom. Covering a sharp corner or removing tripping hazards, such as a rug, are simple ways to prevent a child from being injured. For added safety, make sure that appliances, cupboards, and doors can only be opened by an adult. If you are worried about a child that likes to wander, there are several devices, such as door locks and alarm systems, that prevent your child from leaving the house unnoticed.