By Paul Denikin
Photo via Pixabay by Steve Buissinne
Safety starts in the home. It’s the place where you can let your guard down. You should be able to bake chocolate chip cookies, curl up on your couch with a good read, and dance around in your room to your favorite song with complete confidence that you are comfortable and secure. However, if your child has a disability or special health care needs, creating a safe, comfortable home might require some special modifications. Comfort and accessible are synonymous when it comes to home safety. Renovating some key areas in your house can evoke a sense of freedom and security for the entire family. Here are a couple of places to start:
Approaches, Landscapes, and Doorways
Your rooms can be as comfortable as possible, but it won’t make a difference if you and others can’t easily enter, exit, and move around the house. Instead of stairs, ramps and/or lifts are a good alternative. Ramps are generally less expensive, more reliable, and less prone to breakdowns. If the amount of space from one level to the next is too large for a ramp, there are many types of lifts, like inclined platforms, vertical platforms, and stair lifts.
If your house needs to be wheelchair accessible, your doorways should be at least 36 inches larger to allow for easy maneuvering. If 36 inches isn’t possible, 32 inches will work as well, but that is the minimum amount of space needed. Consider installing either wide throw hinges or swing clear hinges, both of which can add more space in the doorway. In some cases, a door might not even be necessary. Door handles and locks might need to be readjusted to a lower height.
On the exterior, level the ground and remove potential hazards so everyone can enjoy the space. Create paths friendly to wheelchairs, walkers with poor mobility, or those with impaired vision. For doors that lead outside, minimize the size of doorsteps and thresholds and remove doormats. For added safety measures, carve out a peephole or small view panel in the door at an accessible height.
This is one of the most important repairs, and should be a consideration for every room. The material needs to be durable, smooth, firm, easily cleanable, and not prone to buckling or bunching. Some material that is both practical and affordable is vinyl, cork (though not for wheelchairs), or laminate. A better floor can prevent trips and slips, and if your child happens to fall, prevents major damages to their body.
All controls for electrical appliances are reachable, like light switches, outlets, or thermostat controls. Sometimes, the direction of the lighting may need to be redirected, or the fixtures may even need to be changed. A remote system works well for things like ceiling fans.
Some rerouting in terms of plumbing may be necessary. Sinks should be higher than usual so a wheelchair user can roll straight under without reaching or stretching. Instead of using bulky cabinets for storage, install in-wall compartments for maximum space. Install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower. Raise the level of toilets and provide a completely level surface for showers to allow direct walk in or roll in entry.
For more ideas, visit some of these sights:
Being mindful of how your child moves around the house, how they feel when they’re at home, and other stimulating features can make the difference for the entire family. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are numerous resources to get funding, find the right person to renovate, and support the emotional needs of everyone involved. Creating a comfortable and safe home is achievable.