If your loved one finds themselves suddenly needing to use a wheelchair (even temporarily, as may be prescribed to you as part of outpatient rehab) a once familiar home can start to seem like alien terrain. While you may not have the resources to complete any heavy-duty remodeling, there are a few simple modifications you can do to make your home more accessible and accommodating for wheelchairs.
Lighting the Way
Good lighting is essential for anyone, but it’s particularly important for loved ones using wheelchairs. Adequate lighting can make it easier for them to navigate the home, particularly in areas like stairways or hallways. If there are any areas where being able to reach the light switches is an issue, you have a few options. Smart bulbs and smart outlets are an affordable way to control your lighting via a phone, or by voice if you also have a smart speaker installed like Alexa or Google Home. Ceiling fan lights and table lamps can easily have their pull cords lengthened with a loop of extra string. Motion-activated lighting can also be a useful addition.
Putting Things Within Reach
Anything in closets and cupboards that is used daily should be moved to a lower height where it’s easily accessible. If the handles on your cabinets are placed mid-door, a simple pull cord can put them within reach for wheelchair users. Additionally, Command™ hooks, caddies, and shelves are an easy and effective way to add height-appropriate storage wherever you need it.
Dealing with Doorways
Widening doorways can make a huge difference in accessibility and comfort for people in wheelchairs. A standard doorway is typically 27-30 inches wide, but most wheelchairs need at least 32 inches to move through comfortably. You can add a few precious inches of width by removing the trim. You can also install offset hinges so the door can swing clear of the doorway for extra clearance – or remove the door entirely.
One of the easiest ways to make your home more accessible is to clear pathways of clutter and obstacles. This can include removing excess furniture or decor, rugs, and any other items that may obstruct a wheelchair. Remember that most wheelchairs require a minimum 32 inches of clearance, so do what you can to make the pathways through your home at least that wide.