There are many issues that become apparent in our homes when accessibility (whether due to old age, disablement, recovery from surgery, etc.) becomes an issue – but all of them can be taken care of with the right solutions. Is your home set up to accommodate yourself or your loved ones if/when accessibility matters arise? Here are a few questions that are often asked when homeowners are considering accessibility within their home.
Q. It’s getting increasingly difficult to negotiate the couple of steps into the house from the Garage. What can we do to make this easier?
A. Forward thinking Builders today are eliminating those steps between the house and garage to create barrier free entrances. During initial construction, this can be done at minimal cost. But for an existing home there are also several solutions. As long as you’re still ambulatory, perhaps a vertical grab bar at the door to the house would suffice, or maybe even a handrail for the 1 or 2 steps would work. Getting over high door thresholds can be made easier with tapered floor mats. Round doorknobs can be changed to egg-shaped ones or levers for easier operation. As mobility decreases and a wheelchair becomes necessary, a ramp will make things a lot easier. This would typically be built out of treated lumber or even concrete depending on the space available in the Garage.
Q. It’s increasingly difficult to negotiate the Basement stairs to get to my Laundry. What can be done to make that more accessible for me?
A. There are several things you can do. Depending on your situation and how your home is laid out, you could:
1) Add handrails to both sides of your stairs. In many cases these could be made to match your existing railing.
2) Add light in the stairway to help you see better. That could happen with electrical light fixtures or with a sun tube to bring in natural light during the day, or a combination of both.
3) If the treads and risers are uneven or too steep, the stairs might be able to be rebuilt to a more comfortable walking incline.
4) The Laundry could be moved to the main or even the second floor. Stackable units take up less space than full size units and sometimes can be installed in an existing closet for minimal disruption of the existing floor plan.
Q. I recently had foot surgery and can’t get my walker through the bathroom door. What should I do?
A. The easiest way to widen a doorway is to replace the existing hinges with offset hinges. If the door opens at a 90-degree angle to the opening, you can gain up to 2” of width without even replacing the door! In some cases, this provides a low-cost fix by giving you the width you need. The hinges can then be easily replaced with your regular hinges later on. If this solution doesn’t work, however, you might need to replace the door with a new wider one.