A Handbook for Life Center Blog

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Breaking Down the Physical Barriers for People with Additional Needs

Thank you to guest blog contributor Jane South for this comprehensive look at remodeling a home to make it more accessible to people with disabilities.

America has 57 million people with special needs and disabilities according to the National Organization on Disability. Every day, they may encounter physical barriers that impact their functioning significantly. By reducing or eliminating impediments faced by this group of people, it raises living standards and quality of life. Removing obstacles through easy home adaptations or modifications significantly improves inclusion of persons with additional needs or handicap. They also make caregiving an easier task improving the quality of care and attention. From modifying doorways to upgrading furniture, every little act to eliminate physical barriers in day-to-day living helps.


Accessible Entrances and Doorways

There are around 2.2 million users of wheelchairs while 6.5 million people depend on walkers, canes or crutches for day-to-day activities according to the National Institutes of Health. Widening entrances to enable those in wheelchairs to move freely around is the best option. However, if this requires a major structural change, you can opt to use the widest door in the house as your entrance. Put a (temporary) ramp so that wheelchair-users can easily get in and out of the house. To move from one room to another, you can remove doors temporarily and fit swing-away hinges. Driveways should also be free of obstructions such as twigs, loose stones, and debris to avoid tripping people who are walking with the use of canes or for those in wheelchairs.


Rearrange Furniture in the Living Room

Inside your home, there should be ample room to move around. Shift furniture to allow for access space or remove unnecessary pieces. Those with additional needs require lots of room to maneuver so removing clutter and big pieces of furniture will help. If there are extension cords, they should be taped on the floor or wall to avoid tripping on the wires. Lamps and other electronic items should not become obstructions as well as loose carpets and rugs.


Install Air Purifiers

Clean air is vital to everyone’s health but will be beneficial the most for those with respiratory problems. Older adults who have chronic illnesses have weak immune systems and bad air can only worsen their situation. Air purifiers help trap microparticles, dust, and germs that are harmful to the body improving the indoor atmosphere. To improve comfort levels, invest in humidifiers and dehumidifiers.


Modify the Bathroom

It is critical that a bathroom is friendly to users with additional needs. The most common hazard when using the bathroom is slips which could lead to falling and injuries. Installing grab bars near toilets and the shower can help prevent falls. Non-skid rubber mats should replace bathroom carpets. Taps can be changed with lever handles, bathroom seats elevated and shower/bath chairs installed. These modifications are helpful for people with limited or deteriorating mobility such as those with Parkinson’s disease.


Make the Kitchen Safe

The kitchen can quickly become a hazard if appropriate precautions are not taken. Decluttering, lowering countertops for easy access, installing hands-free or electronic touch faucets and using adaptive equipment & tools can make life in the kitchen easy and safe.


Upgrade the Bedroom

Unless the bedroom is on the ground floor, a chair lift might be required to bring a person with special needs upstairs. The room should have adequate lighting and space to move around. Senior beds with rails can be installed as well as electric mattresses to make it easy to get in and out. Touch lamps are practical as well as a monitor or phone close by for emergencies.


Technology advances have made it easy to implement home modifications that can make the life of people with additional needs comfortable and safe. By making these physical changes, it also empowers them to do things on their own, live independently and experience a good quality of life.

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