Reorganizing your home to allow an independent lifestyle for a person with a physical disability is usually not a DIY project. That doesn’t mean it’s a pipe dream either.
There are concrete steps you can take to make your home accessible for everyone and in a manageable way.
Every person’s disability is a unique situation with different obstacles and challenges. So, before you begin making adjustments to your home, consider the specific goals you want to achieve.
Explore a few different questions, like:
What are yours or your loved one’s specific issues or obstacles?
Will they/you require assistance from another person short or long term?
How intensive will that assistance be? (constant supervision or available aid as needed)
Are tripping hazards/clutter an issue?
Is their/your current living situation suited to their/your needs?
Do they/you have assisted walking devices like a cane or walker?
Which rooms do they/you most frequently use (and will this require more attention)?
Tripping hazards and stability within the home’s structure, particularly in railings, staircases and bathrooms, are especially important for seniors. Those who use wheelchairs need accessible entryways using ramps, lifts and widened doorways.
In several cases, developing an efficient organizing system for documents and possessions is beneficial. Removing clutter and objects from the floor decreases potential hazards.
Just like every person has their own considerations, so does every room. The three spaces to pay the most attention to are the exterior entrance, the bathroom and the kitchen. These areas are used most often and have some of the biggest dangers.
The exterior obviously needs to be equipped so that it is accessible for everyone to enter the home, while the kitchen presents height challenges and fire hazards.
Give special care to the bathroom because this is where slips and falls are most common. Seniors, you’ll want to invest in grab bars, non-slip mats and new bathtub/shower combos that you can more easily get into.
Research is, as always, the most important part of a home organization. There’s not much of the actual process that you can do yourself, so research is a great area to focus on to feel in control of the overall project.
Like we said before, this is not typically a DIY job. While you can be heavily involved in major organizing and downsizing efforts, any actual renovation or restructuring in the home requires professionals.
We recommend reaching out to as many as possible in different areas. There are several resources available to you and making use of them can only benefit the overall process.
Occupational therapists are your best bet for information on technology, tools and renovations for people with disabilities. This is their forte and it makes them your greatest asset
Professional organizers can help with organizing existing possessions and creating more efficient storage systems once the renovation is complete. They can also be consulted prior to the renovation
Accessible Renovators, contractors who work heavily on renovations for disabilities, are also valuable, as they can offer ideas you may never have thought of. They will also be the most familiar with the proper codes in your province or municipality
For seniors, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) can offer you the best solutions to create a safe environment in your current home
Products and Technology
Technological advancements have made better solutions to different physical challenges. The amount of options available to you is amazing.
For those in wheelchairs, ‘reachers’, hydraulic shelving, portable ramps and chair lifts are just a few of those options. There are fire alarms and door bells linked to blinking lights for those who are hearing impaired.
Technology is continually progressing so do a little research and you’ll be sure to find solutions for you.
Unfortunately, this usually isn’t a cheap project, but you’re not completely on your own. Researching different financial options is important because there are a few routes to help afford the changes.
Provincial and municipal financing for disability renovations
Home Accessibility Tax Credit (HATC)
March of Dimes Canada
President’s Choice Children’s Charity
Online forums based on your specific needs
Whether this accessible organizing project is for yourself or a loved one, we understand how daunting it can be. Your best move is to do your research and use your resources. We encourage you to reach out for more information on reorganizing your home for a disability.
Ronny Wiskin, a certified environmental access consultant, and Joanne Strang, my valued client, contributed, in part, to this blog.