Will Your Home Welcome Everyone?
Steps to take before you build to make your home visitable
Most everyone wants their new home to be very hospitable and inviting, to provide a sense of warmth, starting with the front door and continuing from room to room.
But have you given any thought to whether your home will welcome everyone in a real, practical sense? What about those who may come into your life who depend on the use of a walker or wheelchair? Will they be able to even enter your home? Will there be at least one bathroom on the main floor for them to use?
Unfortunately, these are issues that are usually not considered by able-bodied homebuyers. But for anyone faced with the challenges of limited mobility, the humiliation and frustration of being unable to visit friends’ or relatives’ homes is often very real.
Taking measures before construction to ensure your home will be visit-able by everyone is very cost-effective and actually makes anyone’s home more practical and liveable. Incorporating them after construction is considerably more involved and more expensive.
The three keys to creating a visit-able home are:
- Provide at least one zero-step entrance (with a shallow slope) into the home.
- Make all main-floor doors (including closets and bathrooms) no less than 2’-10’’ wide. This step can also enhance resale values by making the home seem larger and more spacious.
- Choose a home plan that includes a main-floor bathroom that is large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
If you see a possible need for your home to be even more accessible in the future, you may want to consider incorporating these additional recommendations:
- Rooms need to be large enough to allow a wheelchair to pass through after furniture has been brought in.
- Bathrooms must be roomy, with adequate access to toilets and proper backing in the walls where hand rails will be installed or added later if needed. Showers should be roll-in or have built-in seats. Tubs need generous clearances and a seat on the edge. Linen closets and cabinets should accommodate height limitations.
- Inside, there should be few or no surface level changes. If stairs are included, they should be in a straight run to accommodate a chair lift.
- All doors must have sufficient clearance (on the door handle side) to allow a person in a wheelchair to pull them open.
- Garages should be sized to offer greater mobility around vehicles.
- Hallways must be wide enough for a wheelchair to turn into rooms.
- In the kitchen, aisles should be at least 40 inches wide. Raised dishwashers and side-by-side refrigerators provide greater accessibility. Ovens that open from the side eliminate the need to reach over a hot door. Drawer cabinets, Lazy Susans and pull-out shelves add convenience for everyone. A counter portion 30 inches wide and 28-32 inches high, with no cabinet beneath it, can be used as a work station by anyone seated in a chair or wheelchair.
- In the laundry room, choose appliances with controls in front. The washer should also be front loading.
- Throughout the home, single-lever hardware, easy-to-reach switches, outlets and appliance controls add ease. Using layered closet rods adds storage and accessibility.
This article originally appeared in Her Homemagazine.