A common topic we discuss here at Troy Tech is how to make the adjustment to life in a wheelchair as easy as possible, and we know that a big piece of this is making your home more accessible. The difficulty, however, is the costs that amount with each utility, appliance, or accommodation that needs to be updated. Here, we take a fine-toothed comb to the truly essential home modifications required for comfortable wheelchair navigation, and provide resources on how to get financial help or make your updates at a lower cost.
Some of your renovations will span your whole house. You may need to renovate flooring to ensure that they’re firm, stable, slip-resistant, and smooth. According to the ADA, some of the best flooring materials include tile, vinyl, laminate, hardwood, and low-pill carpet. Each has pros and cons, but they’re the best options to remain ADA compliant and suit your needs.
You’ll also likely need to widen doorways across the house. Wheelchairs can range in width from 21 inches, like our Flux Slim-Line Daily Living Chair, up to 40 inches, as is the case with some heavy-duty chairs. Interior doors typically measure around 24 inches, so it may be necessary to widen your doors – even if your chair is slim – to help you navigate more easily and comfortably. The cost to widen a doorway can range from the low hundreds up to the about $2,500 depending on the level of remodel you’re considering. Some options, like swing-clear hinges or barn doors, can help mitigate some of these costs and keep them more affordable.
Installing grab bars around your home will also be a key update. Consider placing these in the bathroom, your bedroom, and the places in your home where you’re most likely to move out of your chair. At approximately $200 to install, you can incorporate as many or as few as you see fit for your needs. You may also need to renovate your windows to make them easier to reach, open, shut, and clean.
When it comes to your kitchen, your biggest adjustment will likely be to lower your counters. The ADA recommends that counters sit at 34 inches at the highest and be clear of obstructions underneath in order to accommodate wheelchair use. This applies, too, to sinks, which may also need to be updated with faucets that are controlled by levers rather than knobs to avoid uncomfortable or difficult gripping or twisting.
Cabinets, stoves, and ovens should also be lowered so that they’re easily accessible without any excessive reaching, twisting, or stretching, while dishwashers should be raised up so that they may be reached without too much bending.
A full kitchen remodel can be daunting, with these pieces adding up to anywhere from $6,000 to more than $20,000 depending on your wants and needs. The Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, however, developed a guide to help walk through home remodeling for disability on a budget, with state-by-state inventories and guidelines for reference.
Like the kitchen, bathroom accommodations may also be numerous. In addition to potentially lowering cabinets and countertops based on your bathroom’s layout, you’ll also need to modify your shower, toilet, and storage areas.
Depending on your needs and budget, you may consider a curbless shower. While these will increase your renovation costs, they’ll provide significant benefits when it comes to navigating in and out of the shower safely and easily.
You may need, also, to raise your toilet seat in order to more easily use it without undue strain, stretching, or lifting. Here, the ADA recommends that a toilet sit at least 15 to 17 inches off the ground to make the transition to and from the chair easier.
Updating your bathroom to make everything wheelchair accessible can be done for $2,000 to $16,000, depending on how much work you’re considering and whether your bathroom is a comfortable size to begin with.
Some of these figures are incredibly daunting. Fortunately, there are resources and funding options available to help mitigate some of the costs of renovation. A great place to start is with this Home Advisor list of resources to apply for grants or financial help. The State of Illinois Department of Human Services also has a series of options available, and Assistive Technology Partners has developed a guide on how to make your updates on a budget with some no- or low-cost options included.
With these main accommodations outlined and financial resources available, hopefully the task of updating your home can seem less intimidating. The ease and increased comfort you’ll feel in your accessible home will be well worth the investment, and you’ll gain a level of freedom in navigating and using your home safely and independently.