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5 projects for a handicap accessible home

How to make your home ADA compliant

It’s hard to understand the challenges facing the physically disabled if you’ve never been sidelined. My day in a wheelchair came on spring break 2012 after a harrowing spill in Arches National Park. Two broken ankles, one shattered tailbone and an emergency helicopter flight later, I was being wheeled by my college buddies through the ski resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado.

Eventually, my friend Nate ditched the chair and threw my battered body over his shoulder as we trekked over to the local theater to watch Hunger Games. Throughout the film, I was on the edge of my seat—albeit more to ease my tailbone and less because of Jennifer Lawrence’s archery skills. This entire ordeal taught me that obstacles abound for the wheelchair bound.

Around 20% of Americans live with a disability per the U.S. Census Bureau. Whether you need to accommodate aging joints or long-term injuries, it’s always a good time to enhance accessibility for your loved ones throughout your home. Here are five key areas to make your home ADA compliant in the near future.

Entrance

You can’t accommodate your loved ones if they can’t even make it through the front door! Swap that precipitous stoop with a gentle ramp for the benefit of wheelchairs and those who have difficulty on their feet. Install handrails and provide sufficient doorway clearance on all sides for effortless access.

From professional athletes to senior citizens, there’s no discrimination when it comes to bathroom injuries. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mishaps near the bathtub, shower, toilet and sink cause around 235,000 nonfatal injuries in the US each year.

Accommodate wheelchairs by widening doorways to 32 inches across and mount grab bars by your shower and toilet. Depending on the situation, you may need to go the whole nine yards and install a walk-in tub, raise your toilet by a few inches or remove sink cabinets to improve bathroom access. Smaller scale projects include shower seats and modified shower heads.

Raiding the spice cabinet and chopping up veggies can be a chore and a half for those with physical disabilities. Comprehensive renovations include lowering countertops and reinstalling hard-to-reach cabinetry. If you’re looking to tackle something bite-sized, rearrange essential appliances and food items for easier access and widen doorways and pathways to accommodate wheelchairs.

Staircases

Steep and rickety staircases spell kryptonite for the physically disabled. While handrails are required by code and should already be installed, a motorized stair lift may be your best bet for accommodating wheelchairs and those with balky knees. Got slippery stairs? Install safety tape or carpet for better traction.

Flooring

Slippery floors are a recipe for falls. Per the CDC, 2.8 million older Americans are treated in the emergency room for fall-related injuries every year. Throughout your home, slick floors should be replaced with textured surfaces. Spring for low pile carpet in dry areas and rubberized flooring in bathrooms to keep accidents to a minimum. Rugs are usually a bad idea.


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