According to the data gathered from the last national census, one out of every five people are living with a disability in the U.S. For some, it might be a temporary situation such as recovery after a knee or hip replacement and for others, permanent physical challenges. Either way, you want your home to be the same safe haven you envisioned it to be.
With the principles of universal design as a foundation, here are four ways you can make your new home meet the physical challenges you face now, or later in life.
Enlist an Experienced Home Designer or Homebuilder
Utilizing the services of a professional is a good way to begin this process. Many designers and builders are well-acquainted with universal design (UD). UD is the design of products and environments for everyone – those with and without disabilities — without too much added cost. A well-versed designer can assess your situation and detail a home that will consider your needs. He or she will suggest modifications that will work well with the existing home plan and decor. If you are building a house from the ground up, a contractor will fill this role to help you create a home that you can get into and move around without hassle.
Eliminate Slip and Fall Risk Areas
Whether you have existing physical disabilities, are getting older, or both, the risk of slips and falls can compound already difficult situations. To address this matter, start by assessing how you approach and enter the home. Consider having at least one exterior entrance outfitted with a ramp or a flattened threshold with railings to hold onto. You can have texture added to let the soles of shoes, walkers and wheelchairs move along with better traction and without slippage. Take into account the weather conditions in your area, like heavy rainfall or snow, and make these additions able to withstand the seasons.
When it comes to inside your home, laminate and tile flooring are great surfaces that reduce the potential for accidents. You might want carpeting in your home, and that’s okay too – just aim to get low-pile carpeting that’s ¼ inch thick that can keep some warmth in the home and won’t impact your mobility. If you still have mats and small rugs and don’t want to toss them out, add non-skid material underneath them. For bathrooms, add grab bars around your shower, bathtub and/or toilet.
Optimize Your Kitchen Space
For some, physical challenges might make it hard to thoroughly enjoy the kitchen space. But a few fixes here and there can make a huge difference. Aim to have just one area in your kitchen easily accessible from a low position. If you’re building a new home, have your builder install lower countertops near your stove and tables. When it comes to your sink, think about extending the hose attached so you don’t over-exert yourself in washing dishes and utensils.
Renovate Your Restroom
We all spend a lot of time in the bathroom, and there’s a number of ways to make it easier to use if you also face physical challenges. Consider purchasing a toilet built to meet the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. You can also eliminate stepping over the edge of the bathtub with walk-in shower options. Taking the time to make your home a truly welcoming space no matter what physical challenges you or your family members face is a worthwhile endeavor. Make you home a space that will further allow you to express yourself in style, safety and comfort.
Christopher Smith is a freelance writer when he’s not sampling the best cuisine in his hometown of New York City. Prior to that, he worked in film and television post-production, and counts the honor of working with Eartha Kitt among his milestones.