by Carole Dodge, O.T.R., C.H.T.
Kitchen. The kitchen door should be at least 36 inches wide to allow a wheelchair user to get through it. Your plan for the kitchen should include a clear counter space, counter and work surfaces at two or more different heights, easy-to-reach and easy-to-operate appliance controls, easily accessible kitchen storage, and a pantry-type closet with rollout or revolving shelves. Counters placed close to the stove and refrigerator will reduce the distance items need to be carried. Stoves with sealed burners and self-cleaning ovens will also reduce work. Remember to leave enough space between islands and appliances for a wheelchair to freely move around.
Bathroom. In the bathroom, make sure the door is at least 36 inches wide to allow for wheelchair access. Toilet seats raised 17 to 19 inches or toilet guardrails make it easier to get on and off the toilet. Built-in or portable shower seats provide for greater safety and save you energy. Heat lamps can add extra comfort on cold days. Motion-activated light switches turn on when you enter the bathroom and turn off a short time after you leave. They are especially helpful at night or if you use a cane or walker.
Laundry room. Make your laundry room user-friendly with front-loading machines and appliance controls that you can easily reach and operate. Put washers and dryers on a raised platform so you don’t have to bend. Have a folding table or ironing board built into a wall to save you even more energy.
Bedroom. Bedroom doors should be at least 36 inches wide, and there should be no furniture in the way. Avoid small switches by adding a touch adapter to bedside lamps. Closets and other storage units should have adjustable-height shelving and hanging rods. Door handles should be easy to use, and doors should be lightweight and open smoothly.
Think low maintenance when choosing new flooring and windows in the bedroom and elsewhere. Flooring should be nonslip and carpet should be low-pile. Don’t use throw rugs. Windows should tilt in for easy cleaning and be double-paned so you don’t need storm windows. Also, think about replacing heavy drapes with decorative window treatments such as valances or vertical blinds.
Garage. Lastly, don’t forget the garage. A paved driveway to the garage is easier to move around on. Allow for ample space around vehicles so you can easily get in and out of your car and remove packages. And try to reduce the number of steps you need to go up to get into the house, or get rid of the steps altogether.
Not all of these suggestions will be useful or possible for every person, but it is a good idea to think about them as you plan for the future. Taking the time to thoroughly plan your renovation or new home purchase will be time well spent. Explore local home shows and large home improvement stores for ideas, and take the opportunity to try things out so you can find out what works best for you. If you stick to the principles of universal design, your home should meet all of your needs for a lifetime.
Last Reviewed on June 27, 2012
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