When you are accommodating for a disability, for someone with limited mobility, or for an aging adult, there are many factors to consider when making your remodel. It's critical that you thoroughly research needs and options, and, whenever possible, communicate with the individual you are working to accommodate. They are the expert in the situation and will have an important perspective on the remodel that you may not have considered. That way, you can walk into your remodel project fully prepared for any situation that may arise.
Fair Housing Act and Other Helpful Legislation:
The Fair Housing Act is a great way to start your research for your remodel. It requires that buildings with certain parameters that were constructed after 1991 have a certain set of accessibility standards. These include accessible light switches, thermostats, and other environmental controls; a wheelchair accessible route through the entire dwelling; sturdy, reinforced bathroom walls that can accommodate grab bars; and bathroom and kitchen areas that can easily be navigated by a wheelchair. Other legislation, such as the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and Title II of the American Disabilities act of 1990, provide a great resource and allow more accessible structures across the US.
There are a few things to consider, particularly if you're leasing. First, you may need to pay for these modifications out of pocket up front. Second, any changes you make to leased homes or apartments will probably need to be reversed when you vacate the property. However, your landlord is required to allow reasonable modifications, as well as rules and policies that may provide a challenge for those with disabilities.
Hire the Right People:
Once you've done your research and made your initial plans, make sure to hire experts! You should always hire a contractor or remodeler who specializes in disabilities and don't forget to ask for PLENTY of references. This way, you can rest assured that your remodel goes according to plan.
Accessible Floor Plans, Bathrooms, and Home-Tech:
Depending on your needs, it's important to consider the little details in your home. Ramps and smooth, non-porous flooring, as well as doorways and hallways that are at least 36 inches wide, are ideal when accommodating wheelchairs.
Additionally, the bathroom should be formatted for maximum independence. The shower and tub should be easy to get in and out of, with grab bars, adjustable nozzles, and benches when appropriate. The sink should be open underneath for those with wheelchairs, and the toilet should fit a higher height standard.
Finally, switches, handles, appliances, and other home technology should be easily manipulated for those who have limited mobility or strength in their hands and fingers.
Federal Resources and Grants:
The Federal Housing Administration provides several pathways to help you get financial aid when accommodating for disability. Section 203(k) is specific for remodels and renovations, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development can provide you with services to help you work out your financing if you go down this road.
Additionally, the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) and Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grants can provide some assistance depending on a few qualifying factors. To qualify for remodeling assistance through SAH, the applicant must be seeking remodel assistance for an existing home for those with disabilities or special needs. The SHA, on the other hand, is suited to applicants that are planning to adapt a home that a veteran or family member already owns or is planning to buy. Veterans have other options for financial assistance through the VA, including Cash Out Refinance Home Loans. Other grants for remodels for low income and elderly seniors can be found through the Department of Agriculture.
Remodeling may not be a viable option for all. There are grants available for those looking to make a residential move as well. Just as you would consult professionals that specialize in helping individuals with specific needs, do the same when consulting a moving company. If you are in need of more assistance, don't hesitate to look toward state and local agencies and non-profits that may be able to provide you with funding that is more specific to your needs.
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