Wheelchair-Friendly Remodeling

From on December 11, 2008 in General Remodel

Universal RemodelingIf you need to accommodate someone who depends on a wheelchair, you’ll look at your home with new eyes. In much the way as new parents suddenly view their home in terms of babyproofing it, people who need wheelchair-friendly environments will see a home from the perspective of easy mobility. How can it be made as easy as possible for the person in the wheelchair to function, either independently or with assistance?

The most obvious thing you need to do is arrange for one-floor living. As smooth of a surface as possible is desirable: hardwood floors or tile with grout that’s level with the surface of the tile. Plenty of space to negotiate is important, too. A person in a wheelchair doesn’t just go in straight lines; they need to turn and angle in order to pull in and out of spaces – like a car. Considerations for entering and exiting the home are crucial, too.

In his article Remodeling for Wheelchair Access, Gabriel Wolff writes that after his brother was paralyzed in an accident, “You may never look at doorways and stairs in quite the same way when you have a friend or relative in a wheelchair. Miguel’s power wheelchair obviously could not climb the steps leading to the door, so the first order of business was to install an entrance ramp. After that, we built one leading to the backyard and a short ramp to help him negotiate two small steps inside the house.” His article gives tips for building ramps that are wheelchair friendly, including such things as steepness, width, and landings.

How to Remodel a Bathroom for Wheelchairs, on ehow.com, is another useful source of step-by-step information for making your home compatible with the needs of a person in a wheelchair. These steps include:

  • Assuring entry access to the room – a doorway width of 36” or more
  • Allowing 60” or more of space within the room to accommodate maneuvering
  • Installing a roll-through shower that allows a wheelchair occupant to transfer to a shower chair or use a special shower wheelchair
  • Raising the commode to make transferring from a wheelchair easier
  • Mounting sinks on the wall to make access readily available

With the many special requirements for accommodating people reliant on wheelchairs, your best bet may be to consult with a licensed contractor who specializes in wheelchair-accessible remodeling. A consulting session with an expert can give you an idea of the many options that can make life more comfortable and independent for someone whose needs require special care.