If you or one of your loved ones have suddenly found yourself dealing with a disability or mobility issues, you’re probably considering how to make your home more wheelchair accessible. Quick fixes like ramps and grab handles are a practical option for short-term wheelchair users but those facing a lifetime of limited mobility will require a property to be furnished with more permanent solutions.
Making a home fit for wheelchair users largely focuses on removing obstacles, but it may also mean carrying out expensive renovation work, retrofitting rooms, and investing in medical equipment. Below, we explore some of the most important projects to focus on when making a home wheelchair accessible.
1. Making a Home Wheelchair Accessible by Resizing Doorways
When it comes to making a home more accessible for wheelchairs, you should first focus on doorways. A narrow front door can prove a significant barrier for wheelchair users, although there’s more to consider beyond door dimensions. According to the Irish Wheelchair Association, your doorway should be at least 900mm wide to allow the average wheelchair to glide through with little resistance, with 500mm clear space on the leading edge side of the door.
Although it’s fairly straightforward to replace a front door, reconfiguring interior doors can prove time-consuming and expensive. Interior doorways also tend to be on the small side, with many measuring little more than 700mm wide. When it comes to wheelchair safety, doorway width is particularly important. One of the most important wheelchair safety tips to remember when resizing doors is to provide at least one emergency exit, so prioritise this before moving on to interior doors and other access points.
2. Installing Ramps
Another one of the best ways you can make your home wheelchair accessible is to install an access ramp. If you can afford to install one, go for a free-standing ramp. These robust ramps can be permanent or temporary fixtures and can be made from all manner of materials. If you’re taking care of ramp design and installation yourself, you’ll need to consider running length.
The higher the doorway, the longer your ramp will need to be to allow wheelchair users to manually access your property. In addition to a slight incline, ramps will need to include a flat landing space just before the doorway. This will allow wheelchair users to reorient themselves and prevent wheels from rolling back on themselves, improving the wheelchair safety credentials of your property.
3. Stair Lifts and Elevators
One of the most practical home adaptations for disabled individuals is a stairlift or elevator. If your property is split between multiple levels, you can make your home wheelchair accessible by investing in a stair climber. There’s a wide variety of options on the market, ranging from permanent fixtures to portable alternatives.
If you’re adapting a home for wheelchair accessibility in the long term, installing an elevator is a good idea. Although they’re an expensive alternative to stairlifts, they’re a must for wheelchair users with very limited mobility. Although you’ll have to consider the practical implications of installation, elevators can be incorporated into many interiors without causing too much impact. They can also add value to your home, especially to buyers looking for properties with integrated mobility aids and medical equipment.
4. Home Healthcare Adaptations for Bathrooms
If you’re planning on making a home more wheelchair accessible, bathrooms will need careful consideration. Homeowners with larger bathrooms will find the process easier, especially when it comes to providing clearance between essential fixtures like basins and toilets. Toilet height is a key factor to consider when retrofitting bathrooms. In an ideal world, toilet seat heights should be around 450mm to allow for easy transfer from wheelchairs. You can purchase a raised toilet seat outright, or adapt an existing fixture with an elevated seat or base.
Vanity units and basins will also need to be replaced to improve accessibility. The rim of a sink should sit at a height of no more than 850mm. Furthermore, you’ll need sufficient knee clearance underneath the unit itself. If mobility is very limited, a single mixer faucet will make life easier.
5. Baths and Showers
Showers and baths represent the biggest bathroom barrier for wheelchair users. If budget allows, think about investing in a walk-in tub. If you need something more affordable, a low-threshold tub is a good alternative. A far simpler approach is to rip out your bathtub entirely and repurpose your bathroom as a wet room. When renovating a bathroom for wheelchair users, you’ll also want to install several grab handles to improve accessibility.
If you’re looking to design a wheelchair accessible home for someone with very limited mobility, you should also consider investing in a person hoist and bariatric equipment, such as bariatric raised toilet seats, bariatric shower chairs and bariatric air cushions. These are particularly useful for transferring overweight individuals from wheelchairs to bathtubs and shower seats.
6. Think About Flooring
Your flooring material needs to be considered if you’re planning on making your home more wheelchair accessible. Regardless of which surfacing material you go for, make sure it’s hard-wearing and slip-resistant.
Carpets are not particularly practical. Deep pile carpets are especially problematic for wheelchair access, with the material providing high levels of resistance against wheels. If you must use carpet, opt for a low pile one that will produce minimal resistance. If you’re resurfacing an interior that will experience high volumes of wheelchair traffic, you should avoid carpet entirely as it’s prone to wear and tear.
Laminate and vinyl flooring is a more practical and affordable alternative for wheelchair-friendly interiors. If you spend a little more on your flooring materials, you can expect impressive levels of durability that will cope well with extensive wheelchair use. Because this flooring is made of readily available tiles and sheets, it’s also fairly straightforward to replace damaged sections when the need arises.
7. Make Life Easier with Mobility Aids
There’s no point reconfiguring a property for wheelchair accessibility if you don’t have reliable wheelchairs and mobility aids at your disposal. Here at O’Flynn Medical, we offer an unbeatable range of mobility equipment, along with reliable rental service for those looking for short-term solutions.
The 708 Delight Self Propelled and Transit is a great option for those looking for a standard wheelchair. This reliable chair features foldable armrests, as well as an extended padded backrest for maximum comfort. Available in self-propelled and transit models, it’s the perfect choice for those looking for manoeuvrability.
O’Flynn Medical also specialises in transfer wheelchair rental. The Bobby (Transfer) Wheelchair is ideal for those looking for something compact and easy to use, with adjustable footplates and heel straps making it suitable for a wide range of users.
If you’re looking for a wheelchair that’s designed for life on the go, the Eclips+ Wheelchair Self Propelled and Transit is an ideal choice. The Eclips+ features ergonomic handles, a quick-release rear wheel system, and removable armrests for easy storage.
Looking for comfortable chairs for long-term users? The Inovys II comfortable wheelchair is hard to beat. With its high-spec material and multiple points of adjustment, this wheelchair will help overcome common complaints like pressure ulcers, while the lightweight design makes it easy to store and transport.
8. Putting Your Plans into Practice
Retrofitting bathrooms and kitchens are also important for long-term accessibility. However, these adaptations can prove very expensive. To lighten the load, consider exploring what Housing Adaptation Grants are being offered by your local authority. It is also important to consult a healthcare professional, such as an occupational therapist, as they will be able to assess your daily living needs and advise on adaptations to your home. Other health professionals, such as public health nurses and physiotherapists, can also offer advice on specialised equipment and home adaptations, based on the short-term and long-term needs of the wheelchair user.
Contact Us Today
Contact O’Flynn Medical today to get advice on the right changes to make your home wheelchair accessible. With flexible purchase and rental options and unmatched expertise, O’Flynn Medical is the destination for all your medical equipment needs.