22762 Westheimer Pkwy #420
Katy, Texas  77450

Work Hours
Monday to Friday: 9AM - 5PM
Weekend: 10AM - 5PM

Persons with Disabilities

A Comprehensive Guide to Home Modifications for Persons with Disabilities

This guide provides practical tips for making home modifications that enhance accessibility and independence for persons with disabilities.

Creating a home that is accessible to persons with disabilities can be a challenging task, but it is also one of the most rewarding. By modifying a home to meet the needs of a person with a disability, you can improve their quality of life and give them greater independence. Whether you’re living in an older home that needs some updates or planning to build a new home, our Comprehensive Guide to Home Modifications for Persons with Disabilities can help you make modifications that will make your home more accessible and enjoyable.

Access and Identification

The first thing to consider when modifying a home for a person with a disability is how they will access the property.  Are the walkways and entrances well lit and free of any potential tripping hazards?  Even something as seemingly innocuous as cracks or expansion joints in the driveway or walkways can become dangerous for those needing walkers or wheelchairs.

Can the home be accessed without using stairs?  For wheelchair users, ramps or lifts can provide an alternative to stairs. A ramp can be built to the front or rear entrance of the home, allowing easy access for wheelchair users.  If the home has multiple levels, is there a bedroom, full bathroom and kitchen on the ground floor?  If not, a lift can be installed to provide access to upper floors.

Today, many builders are offering what are referred to as next-generation homes, wherein an entire second, separate living quarters is built alongside the primary home, oftentimes even under the same roof, but has its own entry for independent living while offering the security of proximity for loved ones. Originally, these homes were built as mother-in-law suites, but they lent themselves nice to making home modifications for persons with disabilities.

Motion Activated Lighting

You’ll also want to make sure that your home can be easily identified in the event of an emergency.  Can emergency personnel easily find your home from the street, even in the dark or inclement weather?  Consider putting in light-motion sensors. These sensors have excellent benefits as they ensure a well-lit pathway, cut down on energy costs by only activating when needed, and even act as a level of home security since potential thieves won’t appreciate a sudden spotlight.

Widened doorways and hallways

In addition to providing easy access to the home, it is important to ensure that the interior of the home is accessible to wheelchair users. This may involve widening doorways to allow for the passage of a wheelchair. A standard doorway is usually around 30 inches wide, but a wheelchair requires a doorway of at least 32 inches.  Wider hallways also provide more maneuverability to make turns into bedrooms and bathrooms without nicking walls and door thresholds on the way in.  Wider doors and hallways also have the added benefit of making the home feel much more spacious. 

In general, it’s better to keep your home free from area rugs and runners since they can pose a tripping hazard. If you prefer to have them in your home, secure them with carpet tape or skid-resistant lining. For a disability-conscious home, never include a rug on the stairs or located directly at the top or bottom of stairs, even if it’s secured.

If you have limited mobility in your hands or wrists, make sure the doors in your home have handles instead of knobs. You could even consider having power doors installed in the most-used rooms of your house. Be certain they can be operated manually in case of a power outage. Your front door should include a peephole at a comfortable height, as well as a chain that allows you to speak with a visitor without fully opening the door and leaving yourself vulnerable.

Grab bars and handrails

A key component of home modifications for persons with disabilities are grab bars and handrails. They can provide support and stability when navigating the home. Grab bars can be installed in the bathroom near the toilet and shower, while handrails can be installed along stairways and in other areas where support is needed.

Accessible bathroom

The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in the home to modify for a person with a disability. An accessible bathroom should have a wide doorway, a roll-in shower or bathtub, and grab bars near the toilet and shower.  Eliminating the need to step over any ledges or tub wall greatly reduces the risk of falling. 

Accessible Bathroom

Pay special attention to the toilet area – If it’s too low for you to easily transfer to and from, an elevated seat is an easy fix. Some come with arms or guard rails for additional support. There are even those that have adjustable heights to accommodate evolving needs.

The sink and vanity should also be accessible, with enough clearance for a wheelchair to fit underneath. Builders and contractors are wising up to these special needs, now offering specialized cabinetry that accommodates wheelchairs while also providing the reinforcement needed for those that may need to lean on them.

Kitchen modifications

The kitchen is another important area of the home to consider when modifying for a person with a disability. The kitchen should have at least one easily-accessible workspace that can be accessed while sitting. Lowered countertops and cabinets can make it easier for a wheelchair user to prepare meals. 

The sink will also need to be accessible from a seated position. Even if it’s low enough to accommodate this need, it’s better to create leg space underneath as you did with your counter workspace so you have a more direct angle. 

Accessible Kitchen

You should be able to approach the sink straight forward so you don’t have to come at it parallel. This would result in the need to twist your body sideways, straining your back, neck, and arms.  Pull-out shelves can also make it easier to access items stored in lower cabinets.

Lastly, the stove can be an especially tricky area to make accessible and is certainly one of the most dangerous spots in the kitchen if home modifications aren’t made. Controls should all be on the front of the appliance to prevent having to reach across hot burners and there should be at least two feet of heat-resistant countertop next to the range to permit sliding hot utensils off a burner without the danger of lifting heavy, heated pots.

Living Room and Bedrooms

Living rooms should have plenty of space to move around easily. Though laminate and tile flooring tend to be better options for hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms, most people appreciate the soft and inviting feel that carpet can add to rooms meant for relaxing, like living rooms and bedrooms. Flooring is a key decision when deciding on home modifications for persons with disabilities.

It’s important to choose the right kind, so keep in mind that plush and textured carpet can be difficult to move a wheelchair through and can trip up the legs of a walker or cane. To satisfy both mobility and a feeling of warmth, go for low-pile carpeting, typically 1/4 inch thick. Commercial grade carpet tends to be not only more stain-resistant, but it’s also more durable against the wear and tear of wheelchairs and walkers.

Another new option is sport flooring or “softcrete”.  It has been gaining popularity for residential homeowners because it’s affordable, easy to clean, more durable than carpet but software than tile or hardwoods.  You’ve likely seen the material at your local gym in the weightlifting area.  For years, it’s only been available in variables of black or gray, but demand is forcing manufacturers to offer colors.

Making Room to Move

Space your furniture so that you have adequate room to move around. Keep electrical cords and wires tucked behind furniture or mounted along baseboards to keep them free of your path. If your bed frame, coffee or end tables, or any other furniture in your home have sharp corners, it may be a good idea to pad them to avoid painful run-ins. Be sure that any bed skirts, comforters, or furniture slipcovers don’t hang too far to the floor in a way that could create a tripping hazard.

You may want to have a grab bar installed near the head of your bed for easier transfer. If you opt to use a bedside table to aid you, it should be securely mounted into a stud in the wall. Make sure you have a landline accessible from your bedside or an outlet where you can charge your mobile phone overnight so that you can immediately contact help in the event of a nighttime emergency.

You could make some of these adjustments yourself, but always be sure to consult a professional contractor when it comes to mounting grab bars and other furniture to the wall, or any other maintenance projects. Have a two-way dialogue when determining what home modifications to make and exactly how they’re made. Never get talked into anything you’re not comfortable with. When in doubt, get a second opinion. Professionals can be your guide to safety, but it’s important for you to have input on what will make your living arrangements comfortable and accessible.

Smart home technology

Smart home technology can be a game-changer for persons with disabilities. Voice-activated devices such as Siri, Amazon Echo or Google Home can allow a person with a disability to control lights, thermostats, and other devices without having to physically operate them. Smart home technology can also be used to control door locks, window shades, and other features of the home.

Outdoor modifications

Finally, it is important to consider outdoor modifications when modifying a home for a person with a disability. This may include installing a ramp or lift to the front or back door, creating a wheelchair-accessible path to the garden or yard, and modifying the garage to make it accessible for a wheelchair user.

Some last thoughts…

In conclusion, there are many home modifications for persons with disabilities that can be made to a home to make it more accessible without sacrificing on design. These modifications can range from simple changes such as widening doorways and installing grab bars, to more complex modifications such as installing a lift or creating an accessible bathroom. By making these modifications, you can improve the quality of life and independence of a person with a disability, and create a home that is welcoming and accessible to all.

Share your love