If you have a child who is living with disabilities, it’s important that you create a home that meets his or her needs. The costs of accessibility modifications vary, but the investment is well worth it to have your home be a safe and usable space. Depending on the disability your child faces, here are some tips on accommodations you can make to your home to ensure it is a friendly place to be for all.
* There needs to be at least one step-free entrance in and out of the home. You can easily create one by installing ramps big enough for wheelchairs to use. It is also helpful to have a railing and some space to set down things at the doorway. However, stair glides also work well as a substitute to stairs themselves.
* Keep the house well lit and avoid area rugs as they can be a tripping hazard. Instead opt for flooring that can be easily navigated with wheels, crutches, or a cane.
* Make sure cabinets, tables, and seating are low enough to become reachable.
* Consider handles instead of knobs for easier access to rooms, closets, drawers, or cabinets.
* Store heavy items on bottom shelves so they aren’t too difficult to lift and can’t fall on top of anyone.
* In the bathroom, the toilet needs to be at an appropriate height, and the flooring should be textured so one doesn't easily fall when wet. You should also place grab bars near the toilet and bathtub or shower to provide extra support. A shower seat is nice so children don’t have to stand for the duration of a wash, and you can install a roll-in shower so they don’t have to climb over any barriers or steps to enter. The medicine cabinet also needs to be reachable.
* Space your furniture out so one can move around without bumping into it all the time. Avoid sharp corners and make sure heavy furniture is securely mounted to the wall so if a child needs to lean on it, it doesn’t tumble over. However, doors and things that are going to be pulled on should be light to the touch so it takes less tension or effort to use them.
* The kitchen and at least one bedroom and bathroom should be on the main level of the home, as well as a storage space for medical equipment. * Make sure you are prepared for an emergency situation should it occur. Have exits and a protocol in place in case of fire, tornado, flooding, or an earthquake. According to the Red Cross, “Mobility, hearing, learning, or seeing disabilities can create specific needs that individuals need to address to be able to respond to an emergency.”
* You may need to widen doorways and check that your windows are easy to open.
* Electrical outlets and switches need to also be visible.
* Make space to roll under sinks and tables so it is convenient when one is using them.
Chances are most older homes will need to be modified in order for them to be accessible. Treat each room in the house with a level of flexibility in that it can serve many purposes instead of one. To get some perspective, look at your house through the five senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound. Incorporating universal design, with or without the help of professional, can make a big impact on the quality of life for your child.
Guest Author, Ashley Taylor is a disabled mother of two wonderful, amazing, energetic children. She met her husband, Tom, while doing physical therapy. Tom had suffered a spinal cord injury due to a car accident and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Ashley and Tom knew they wanted children and knew they would have to adapt their lives and home in order to make this dream come true. Ashley is happy to say that they are the proud parents of two healthy, wonderful children and their disabilities haven’t stopped them from leading a happy, fulfilling life.