Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Make Your Home More Accessible

We often think of barrier free design practices and home assistance devices only when they are needed, but why not incorporate a few during your next remodel? They can make life a little easier now, as well as in the future.

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When building, remodeling, or updating we often overlook how we can make our lives a little easier in the process. Small design changes and product choices can make the world of difference, and not just for those in need. Think of all of changes in our lives. Your grandmother comes to visit who has arthritis in her hands. You broke your leg on an icy path and need crutches for a couple of months. Your little one is learning to wash his hands by himself. Then there are the everyday needs, like an extra set of hands to open the door when carrying in groceries.

During a remodel you should also think about the future. With nursing homes becoming ever more expensive, more people are choosing to age in place and stay in their homes even longer. If this is a possibility for you or a loved one might move in, adding some conveniences now, during an update or remodel, may be easier then trying to retrofit later.

Here we will cover some easy, and often still beautiful, ways that you make your home more accessible. They will lend a helping hand now, as well as in the future.



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Around The Home

If you are building a new home or remodeling, some little improvements can make a huge difference. Think about making doors a minimum of 32″ to make it easier for walkers, wheelchairs, or just to carry a laundry basket through a little easier. Install wood, tile, or other solid floors instead of carpet to aid in mobility and make your floors a little easier to clean. Install light switches a little lower (about 42″ to 44″) to make them easier to reach for those in a wheelchair, children, or you when you are carrying those groceries.

A great way to give yourself a helping hand around the house is to install lever handles instead of knobs. Not only do they look more updated, but they are much easier to open for those with limited movement of their hands, children, or if your hands are just full. And don’t worry, they make child safety locks for them too.


Ever come home after dark or stumble to the kitchen in the middle of the night and would rather not turn on the bright lights? Installing lights on exterior pathways and interior halls and stairs make these journeys a little safer for everyone.


Whether you are maximizing your storage or are vertically challenged, these pull-down closet rods can really help to keep your cloths in reach.


Do you or a family member have a hearing impairment or are you just a very sound sleeper? Adding this strobe light to your carbon and smoke detectors may increase your safety.


You can’t forget home automation. We spoke in greater detail about adding technology to the home in previous posts, but it bears repeating here. Pairing devices, like this one for lights, with a smart hub like the Amazon Echo, will allow you to control a number of devices around your home hands free.


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Bath

When constructing a bath, smooth floors are usually a given, but there are other design elements that you can incorporate to make it a little more accessible. How about going for a zero threshold shower? It keeps you from stubbing your toe and makes cleaning the floor a breeze. If you have the space, why not incorporate a 60″ turn radius as well as 60″ space for the toilet? Also, go ahead and add that extra blocking behind the wall for future grab bars. You will be able to add them easily later without tearing out the tile.

Clevr 36" ADA Compliant Foldable Double Seat Teak Wood Shower Bench, 400lb Capacity
Amazon
Clevr 36″ ADA Compliant Foldable Double Seat Teak Wood Shower Bench

This stylish teak bench is a welcome addition to any shower. It is a great aid for those that need it, but also is very handy to have for shaving legs or just enjoying a little steam. Even better is that it isn’t cold like tile and it folds away to save space and for easier cleaning.


Wall mounting a bathroom sink may not seem like a great idea, but if you otherwise have the storage space you lose by getting rid of the cabinet, it really helps to visually open up the space. It will also be helpful for cleaning, if you need to pull a wheelchair beneath, or just to slide a step stool under so your child can wash their hands.


Who says grab bars need to look institutional? These beauties can easily be mistaken for towel bars and blend into your bath decor. Because of the extra support that is needed behind the tile, this is one of those additions better done during a remodel than waiting until it is a necessity. Plus, couldn’t we all use a little help getting out of the bath?


This is a one of those ways that you can add a lot of functionality just by thinking a little more about things during the product selection phase. By going with a simple leaver faucet, you allow easier use for those with limited grasp, but also if you just have dirty hands and want to keep the faucet clean.


This sleek toilet paper holder might just be life changing. No more struggling with that spring loaded contraption. This one pivots to make changing the role easier for everyone as well as a built-in grab bar for guests that need a helping hand.


Another example of an ADA compliant product that is useful for everyone. This hookless shower curtain is super easy to take on and off for washing.


Whether you are pregnant, have knee issues, or just really sore from working out, everyone can use a boost from time-to-time. Installing a comfort-height toilet has become pretty common in today’s bathrooms, but can still be overlooked.


With an adjustable height slide bar and a handshower, you have increased function at your fingertips. Not only will it make showering easier for those that need it, but makes bathing kids, pets, or just rinsing out the tub a whole lot easier. You can even adjust the height of the spray to hit right at the correct spot for that aching back.


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Kitchen

When remodeling a kitchen, there are a lot of easy design choices that can be very helpful. Have a lower section of counter to provide a seating space or a more comfortable level to roll dough. Provide plenty of landing space near the refrigerator and other appliances to make organizing and taking things in and out easier. Make sure paths between cabinets are at least 40″ wide. This will help with any assistance devices as well as just let people pass each other or just walk around open cabinet and appliance doors. Install wall ovens a little higher at (about 31″ from the floor) to make using them much easier and safer. There are even cabinets that will raise your dishwasher to a more comfortable height.

Installing a touchless faucet uses technology to increase the function for everyone. This model has a top sensor for a continuous stream, or a front sensor to only come on when you are using it. Great for sticky hands, kids that can’t quite reach the handle or those with limited hand function. The lever is also easy to use without needing to grasp.


When choosing a cooktop, induction may be the safest option on the market. The touch controls are easy to keep clean as well as great for those with limited finger strength, but the burners are key here. Because they work with your pan to generate heat, they will not be hot to the touch. This is great if you have children around, have someone that may have a visual impairment, or those that tend to leave the burners on.


This is another example of appliances made for safety and ease-of-use in mind. This oven actually opens from the side. This is not only easier for wheelchair use, but much safer than leaning over a hot oven door and trying to reach inside. The hinge side can even be switched so it can open towards the landing space in any kitchen.


Adding a pull-down system to your upper cabinets is not just for those seated or shorter in stature. This allows you to see what is buried in the back of your cabinet as well as finally be able to reach that top shelf. This would be a great addition to the top section of those cabinets near the ceiling.


Never have to get on your knees to get something from the back of your lower cabinet again. These sliding basket organizers make accessing the cabinet easier for everyone.


Install pulls instead of knobs. This is a easy upgrade that not only looks great, but is much easier to open for those with limited grasp.


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As you can see, planning ahead and making some changes to your design can be beneficial now, and in the future. Before your next remodel, check out information on the ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements. While it is not required for a private home, the information is a great way to see what can be done to make things a little more accessible for everyone. This guide by the United States Access Board is a great start.

What other ideas have you seen that would be a great addition to your space? We would love to hear from you. Don’t forget to follow us or subscribe so you don’t miss our future posts here at Practical Home Design.


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