Convenient Tools to Make Your Home Wheelchair Accessible
What small changes make your home wheelchair accessible? According to the University of California’s Disability Statistics Center, 1.6 million Americans living outside of medical centers rely on wheelchairs to get around. At least 6.8 million adults and children have conditions that restrict mobility, making everyday tasks — like dressing, bathing, and navigating their homes — much more difficult, according to the U.S. Census. Here are some quick, relatively low-cost adaptations for safe wheelchair use in your home:
Choose Wide-Swinging Doors
The Learning Center (TLC) advises, “It’s important to have doors with at least a 32-inch (approximately 813-mm) wide opening. Just as on the entry door, thresholds should be rounded and no more than one-half inch (approximately 13 mm) higher than the floor.” Assistive Technology Partners, a division of the University of Colorado at Denver, recommends different ways to widen door and pathways:
- Reverse the swing of the door. Moving the hinges to the other side, so the doors swings in instead of out (or vice versa) can actually give you a few extra inches. If doors are almost up to standard, but do not precisely meet clearance requirements, this may be the simplest fix.
- Install offset hinges. Offset hinges, or hinges that swing clear of the frame, are relatively easy to install. Moreover, they grant homeowners several more inches of clearance, offering another quick fix to narrow doorways.
- Replace the woodwork. In some cases, homeowners may have to remove doors and woodwork to necessary room.
Adapt Kitchens For Convenient Wheelchair Use
Maneuvering in kitchens can be especially difficult. Most kitchen counters are too high to comfortably reach from a wheelchair. Install a track under counters and fix a sturdy cutting board with drawer rollers to create a convenient, makeshift work space. Open the drawer under the cutting board and drawer rollers for extra stability, if necessary.
Carefully direct electrical cords away from kitchens and doorways using careful wire management. Fit furniture and tabletops with desk grommets, or secure cords with sturdy cable ties, to keep cables off the floor. Cables trailing along the floor may bend or break (posing serious electrical and fire hazards), or may get caught up in wheelchairs’ wheels.
Bringing a wheelchair into your home can be a trying process, especially if your home is ill-suited for assistive equipment. Make small adaptations, by installing offset hinges and desk grommets, to keep wheelchair use convenient and safe.