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Creating an Accessible Home
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Creating an Accessible Home

Living with a disability or physical impairment comes with its own set of unique challenges. For someone who is learning to manage a new physical impairment or for a parent whose child has recently been diagnosed with a disability, the challenges can seem monumental and intimidating. Over time, these mountains often become ant hills as people adapt to new situations, but there is a lot to learn in the early stages of a disability and sometimes we lack the resources we need.

Accessibility is one challenge that can be a huge roadblock for someone adapting to a disability. Simple tasks like opening doors or moving around your house can suddenly become a struggle. Though accessibility is a common topic in public spaces, rarely does the able-bodied community think about home accessibility for people with disabilities. This is why it can be initially overlooked by a person with a newly acquired disability.

Home Planning

When determining the necessary home modifications for a person’s disabilities, it’s important to plan based on the individual. For example, a person born with a birth injury like cerebral palsy might require a wheelchair or they may only need handrails or grab bars installed in certain areas of the house. You have to plan for the individual needs of a person and not their disability as a whole. If you are unsure of your specific requirements or if you are planning for a child whose disabilities aren’t fully present yet, consider consulting an occupational therapist. They will have experience working with different disabilities and can offer advice and solutions to fill a person’s needs in the home. They may also be able to recommend new technology and products that work well to assist people with disabilities.

There are many different home modifications that may be appropriate for a person with a specific disability, but some of the more common home modifications to consider include:

  • A no-step entryway into your home or between rooms within the home.
  • Doorways and hallways wide enough to allow wheelchair mobility.
  • Accessible bathrooms - Think shower chair, bench, or grab bar, as well as easy to use and easy to reach shower attachments. Again, the bathroom should be larger to accommodate wheelchair access if necessary.
  • Adjusted heights for countertops and workspaces.
  • Accessible light switches throughout the home - For a person in a wheelchair, light switches may need to be lowered. For someone with limited function in their hands or arms, one might also consider using the newer rocker style switch with a larger surface area to press.
  • Non-slip flooring that allows for wheelchair mobility - Some carpets, for example, might be too thick to allow easy mobility throughout the home. Here are some helpful home flooring suggestions for a person with a disability or physical impairment.
  • Door knobs in the place of door knobs - Generally, door handles are preferred over doorknobs because it requires less physical effort and coordination to use.

Financial Planning

Most people don’t plan for a disability. We rarely foresee dangerous or unusual situations that may leave us or a loved one with a permanent impairment, and because of this, most people, while unprepared for the changes in their day to day life and the emotional toll it can take, are often overwhelmed by how financially taxing a disability can be. Home modifications themselves can be quite expensive, so how does an unprepared family affordably renovate their home to be inclusive for everyone living there?

In some situations where there is an injured party, there are legal avenues available. If a newborn is injured during or soon after birth due to medical malpractice, the child’s parents might exercise their legal rights to sue the medical facility or doctor, as often seen in cases of non-congenital cerebral palsy. A person significantly injured in a car or motorcycle accident may be able to seek legal action against the at-fault party. While legal action isn’t available in all scenarios, it is worth looking into as settlements and legal rewards can cover long-term care, equipment needs, and home modifications.

If a lawsuit is not a feasible option for your specific situations, there are other financial options you might consider. Try contacting your local advocacy group or call the National Council on Independent Living at 703-525-3406 to locate the chapter nearest you. These organizations are focused on helping people who are living independently with a disability, and several of these organizations allocate some of their budgets to assist people in the community with necessary home modifications.

Another channel to consider is a loan. An FHA Title 1 loan, for example, is used for many home improvement projects. This type of loan was intended to give Americans a fixed-rate loan option to make their home more livable. For a person with a disability, this can include any of the modifications mentioned previously as well as the purchase of newer or more functional appliances if needed to make a home more accessible. While these loans are not granted by the Federal Housing Administration, private lenders who offer FHA Title 1 loans are insured of all losses by the government, making them sound investments for financial institutions and making them more accessible for a person with a disability.

Conclusion

Home modifications may be necessary to improve in-home mobility for a person with a disability and can greatly enhance their overall quality of life. These modifications are nothing to be ashamed of, and they are not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength and a person’s adaptability to the world around them. The more opportunities and thought given to the needs of people with disabilities, the more we can move towards a more inclusive and accessible environment and society.

Image credit: pixabay.com

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