Whether you have a loved one with a disability or have one yourself, or maybe you’re just looking at buying a new home, millions of people throughout the country are faced with the prospect of needing to make their home more accessible. Making a home accessible can seem daunting with some unsure which areas of the home aren’t accessible or how to make them more accessible for wheelchair users and other mobility disabilities. Many are also fearful of the cost and time burden it might entail. As ramp specialists we, fortunately, know quite a bit about accessibility so here’s our guide to making your home accessible.
Why making homes accessible is so important
More and more people are faced with the need to make their homes more accessible. Both our elderly and disabled populations are growing so the need for accessibility is higher than ever. Today, more than seven million homes in the UK are owned or rented by people of pensionable age and there are more than 1.8 million disabled people in need of wheelchair accessible homes.
While many new build homes are built with accessibility more in mind than ever before, such as including step-free access, we are still faced with the majority of our homes needing renovation, some of it extensive. If you’re considering making your own home accessible, then here’s what you should look out for.
The most important part of the home for accessibility is, of course, the entrance. Many homes have at least a minor threshold obstacle at their front door and many more have a full step or two. If this is the case for your home you’ll need a ramp, most likely a semi-permanent one as you’ll be using it regularly.
Installing a ramp at your entrance doesn’t have to require a huge renovation or even comply to Part M or K building regulations. Today you can get high quality and highly durable semi-permanent wheelchair ramps that can be built to your specifications. Handy platforms can even create U-shaped or L-shaped ramps to fit small and awkward spaces, a common problem for residential properties. All-weather anti-slip surfaces mean they are safe to use all year round and can be left for months or even years, but because they can be easily and quickly dismantled and are therefore only temporary, they don’t have to comply with building regulations. In fact, they can be put up with just two people including a fairly competent builder.
For wheelchair users in particular, it’s a good idea to look at your flooring. Carpets can make it extremely difficult for wheelchair users to get around, so look at a hardwood type flooring instead. Laminate or even linoleum are affordable alternatives. Today you find incredible laminate that looks just like real hardwood at just a fraction of the cost.
Light switches and plug sockets
Height can be a real concern for wheelchair users and people with mobility issues. Traditional light switches, for example, are often too high up for wheelchairs users to reach comfortably. Similarly, plug sockets are extremely low down can be dangerous for people with mobility disabilities to reach down to. Renovating your home to lower switches or change the position of plug sockets can be costly as you’ll need the help of an electrician.
Fortunately today there is smart home technology that could help you for a fraction of the cost. Smart plugs and lightbulbs with smart home devices mean you can activate plug sockets and lights from an app on your phone or even by voice control with an Alexa or Google Home type device.
If your home has stairs you will need to make sure they are accessible or look at the layout of your home. Many choose to arrange anything necessary including main bedrooms downstairs when someone in the household develops mobility problems. There is also a wide range of hoists and stairlifts available that can help people get upstairs. If someone just has a mobility problem and needs support, then even a simple handrail could suffice.
Doors and hallways
Because of their width, wheelchairs need more space through doorways and hallways. A standard wheelchair is 635mm wide; for comfortable access, it is recommended that doorways are 900mm wide. You should also check what kind of wheelchair will be used around the home as electric wheelchairs and mobility chairs may need even more space. As well as the basic width of the wheelchair you will also need to think about additional room to turn around.
You should also carefully check all your doorways for thresholds and small steps. Fortunately, these obstacles don’t require huge renovations. You can find affordable threshold ramps that are inexpensive and extremely easy to fit. They can stay at the threshold permanently or they can be easily removed if necessary. Rubber threshold ramps, for example, are some of the most inexpensive yet the most versatile as you can combine multiple together to fit awkward thresholds.
Finally, think about changing doorknobs to lever handles for easier access. Automated door systems are now available and you can even make these part of your smart home setup, but swivel handles are a more affordable alternative that can make getting around the home much easier.
Bathrooms may require some of the most renovations but they are extremely important for everyday tasks. A walk-in wetroom type shower is ideal with a bench or seat to make them more comfortable to use. If you still want to be able have baths or don’t want to spend the money taking a bath out to replace with a wetroom, you can now find walk-in baths.
Towel rails, washbasins and toilets should also be measured to be at the most convenient height for wheelchair users with plenty of space around each for easy manoeuvrability. You can find toilet risers which are easy to install to help. Additional handrails around the shower, bath, toilet and other important spaces in the bathroom are also essential.
Traditional kitchens can make life extremely difficult for wheelchair users because of the height of counters and cupboards. Just as with a bathroom, the kitchen may take some of the most renovating. As well as space to navigate and turn around comfortably you may want to look at getting at least some if not all of the counters lowered for wheelchairs use including the kitchen sink. Cabinets should all be under the counters at ground level so that all food and equipment can be reached.
Finally, think about the appliances including the hob, oven, washing machine and dishwasher. Side operating models with doors that can easily swing open from the front and can easily be reached are essential.
As well as smart switches and lightbulbs discussed earlier you’ll find there is plenty of other smart home technology around today to help you around the home. You can find smart appliances that you can use with an app on your phone or voice control smart devices and you can even splash more money on getting automated doors including cupboard doors. Thermostats, windows and taps are also just a few of the things that you might be able to have controlled electronically.
Ready to make your home accessible?
Our wide range of wheelchair ramps is perfect for helping to make residential homes accessible inside and out and are extremely affordable plus easy to fit. If you’re looking at more extensive renovations to make your house accessible and are worried about the cost then you could get help from the government. As well as disability benefits you receive such as PIP you could get funding specifically to help make your home accessible. This is done on a council by council basis, so go here and put in your postcode to get started. Finally, don’t forget that most equipment and products for disabilities including stairlifts and hoists can be bought VAT free. This includes our ramps!