Having to deal with wheelchair mobility for the first time is daunting for anyone. Most houses are not designed to accommodate wheelchair movement, and so there are many obstacles to be overcome.
The following are five areas that need attention and reworking if the home is going to be wheelchair friendly.
1. Gaining Entry
The first thing you will need to do is make the home accessible from the front! There will be the need for a ramp, and where there are steps, a railing, preferably on both sides.
2. Getting Around
The first thing to attend to is the width of door frames. The wheelchair has to fit through the doors, with space to spare. The standard wheelchair width is 25 inches, and an extra 5 inches on each side makes passage comfortable. Where the doorways are too narrow, it is sometimes enough to refit or even remove the door frames. But in other cases, a proper brick-and-mortar renovation is needed. Ramps have to replace steps, and all uneven sections of flooring need to be leveled or removed. It is a good idea to place a peephole at an appropriate height, too.
3. The Right Flooring
Thick pile carpeting is a no-no for the wheelchair user as it restricts mobility a lot. Any form of smooth flooring is preferable. The materials to consider are hardwoods, laminates, tiles, and vinyl. Genuine hardwoods are very costly, while laminated flooring provides a similar look at much less cost. Quality tiling can be expensive, while vinyl tiles are the most cost-effective solution.
4. Bathroom Help
The bathroom presents some of the biggest challenges when it comes to refitting and renovating because it demands self-sufficiency with demanding maneuvers. Of course, a spacious bathroom is preferable, and where space is limited, there may be a need for a complete makeover. There are a few essential aspects of the bathroom to consider. There must be adequate space for turning and enough space in front of the toilet bowl. There must be support rails for the toilet, bath and shower, and a basin that is low enough to permit easy access from a wheelchair.
Ideally, a bathroom that will accommodate a wheelchair needs around 60 inches of open space, providing space in front of the toilet bowl and basin at the same time. The need for support and lifting rails for the toilet, bath, and shower are best established ‘on location’ with the wheelchair and person in place. The height of the washbasin and the positions of rails will vary according to the height of the person. A 30/31 inch height is reasonably standard. The rails should be well-positioned for ease of movement and also firm enough to withstand the loads placed on them.
5. Kitchen Mobility
There is less of a need for total independence of movement in the kitchen, but still, all areas of the kitchen should be accessible. As with the bathroom, the kitchen needs open space of around 60 inches square in which to navigate. All counter surfaces, including the sink, should be easily accessed by a seated person. It’s usually comfortable if the height is around 23 inches, but again, it depends on the height of the person seated. Reaching up to cupboards has to be minimized, so storage has to be located just above floor level. Individual designs will vary, but the main idea is to keep as much as possible in one space to reduce unnecessary movement around the kitchen.
To use the kitchen appliances easily, they should all be side or front opening and positioned at the right height. These needs can take some time to properly engineer, but there will be significant benefits to the user. The ideal is when there’s no special attention called for in the user’s movements in the kitchen. Don’t forget that power sockets and switches must be within reach. Providing this level of assistance to the wheelchair user will increase his or her mobility and provide the means to achieve a very high level of autonomy in the home. Self-sufficiency and competence are cornerstones of esteem and well-being. These basics allow wheelchair users to manage their lives easily under challenging circumstances.