When you or a family member suffers an injury or illness that requires the use of a wheelchair, you will probably have to make accessibility modifications to your home. This will allow the patient to navigate the house without difficulty. If the patient will need a wheelchair for an extended period of time — more than a year — you may wish to invest in remodeling, but this can get quite pricey. For temporary use of a wheelchair, you’re better off with simple wheelchair accessibility modifications.
One problem with wheelchairs is that they become easily snagged on carpet and rugs. While you probably don’t want to pull up all the carpet in your house — and that isn’t necessary — you should make passing through on the floors as easy as possible. Remove any area rugs that might cause the wheels on the chair to hang up and lay down plastic mats over carpet that’s difficult to wheel across. This accessibility modification shouldn’t cost you more than a few dollars if you need to purchase mats, and nothing at all if you don’t.
It can be difficult to use a standard doorknob from in a wheelchair, so you might want to replace your doorknobs with lever-action handles. This will allow the patient to use the doors more easily and will require less leverage from in the wheelchair. You can find such doorknob replacements at Home Depot or Lowe’s for less than ten dollars each, and you can install them yourself with a simple screw driver. If it’s easier, you can also remove doorknobs entirely to enable quicker access to the rooms in your home (don’t do this with exterior doors).
Another thing that will need to change when making wheelchair accessibility modifications is the layout of your furniture. A standard wheelchair requires at least thirty-two inches of space to pass through a hallway or around furniture in a room, and a total of five feet for turning. Push furniture up against the walls to make a larger floor space in the center of the room and move any objects that might impede the patient’s progress. If this isn’t possible, consider storing some of your furniture in the garage or a storage unit while the patient remains in a wheelchair.
One of the main things that you need to consider in making wheelchair accessibility modifications is grab bars, which are installed in areas where the patient will need to get in and out of the wheelchair. The bathroom on either side of the toilet may be one necessary location, as may be the shower and the bedroom. Discuss this issue with the patient to decide what areas of the home might need grab bars. You can also find these at Home Depot or Lowe’s or through a supply store. TheHardwareHut.com has them starting at $23.40 each.
Non-Slip Bathroom Floors
Safety should be a prime concern when it comes to wheelchair accessibility modifications, so make sure that the bathroom has a non-slip floor. You can purchase rubber mats at Wal-Mart, KMart and any home improvement store for about $5.00 each. You should also have a non-slip rub for the bath tub or shower stall.
If the patient will have to access the front and back yards of your home with the wheelchair, you will need a way for him to safely exit the home. Many houses have steps at the front and back entrances which can’t be navigated by a wheelchair. Consider installing low-grade ramps for safety and convenience.