Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Creating an Accessible Home - General Modifications

What I have observed is that people without physical limitations often do not appreciate how difficult simple everyday tasks can be to someone who is physically compromised.  Many times a small modification can remove an obstacle.  By presenting these examples of problems and solutions, I hope to raise awareness of problems and inspire people to look for answers.


Doorways openings are too small/Offset Door Hinges –  The obvious answer is through construction - widen doorways.  There is a cheaper, less disruptive approach.  Offset door hinges will give you an extra 2 inches with very little effort and cost.   Offset Door Hinge

Turning round doorknobs/Levered Doorknobs – Round doorknobs can be difficult for people with limited grasp.  With a lever, all you need to do to open a door is to push down on the lever.  You can replace all the doorknobs in the house with levered ones but this means changing locks and that can get expensive.  An alternative approach would be to put conversion lever attachments over existing round knobs.  Locks would not need to be changed and the cost would be less with this problem solver.  Lever Door Handles

Standing from a seated position/Furniture Risers or a Lift Chair – Standing from a low level can create problems for someone with limited leg strength.  By raising the seat to a higher level, it takes less effort to stand, possibly making the task achievable.  Furniture Riser can raise the whole chair from 2” to 5”.  Another option would be a Lift Chair.  These chairs automatically lift the chair with the push of a button.  Chairs online begin at about $600 and go up.  My online purchase saved me about $300; I paid $600 when the suggested retail was $900.  Shipping was free.  An additional feature in many of these electronically operated chairs is that they also can recline with the push of a button.  Furniture Riseror Lift Chair

Turning Faucets/Automatic Faucets – Normal aging, a stroke, arthritis, or some other medical problem may cause the simple, everyday activity of turning a faucet to be frustrating.  An automatic faucet can be mounted to your existing faucet.  Simply run an object under the faucet and your water comes on automatically. It will then stay on until you move from under the sensor.   Online prices start at around $50.  Automatic Faucet

Grasping and turning a small switch/Touch Lamps – Limited grasp caused by arthritis or other health problems can make the activity of holding a small object like a light switch and turning it difficult.  A touch lamp can be operated by coming in contact with a metal surface on the lamp.  You can buy new touch lamps or just put a Touch Lamp Converter into your existing lamps.  Touch Lamp Converter or Touch

Opening widow coverings/Motorized Window Blinds – Do you, a friend or relative have a dark house because the blinds were never opened?  Sunlight can work wonders on a person’s psyche making this an important problem to fix.  The inability to reach the controls to operate window coverings is a very common problem.  It is not unusual for furniture to block access.  With motorized blinds, you use a remote to point and click to open or close blinds.  A cheaper fix for those who can reach controls but find it difficult to turn wand controllers is to buy blinds where pulling a cord opens or closes the blinds.    Motorized

Getting over thresholds when using a wheelchair/Wheelchair friendly threshold – Your normal door threshold has a small hump so there is not a gap between the bottom of the door and the floor.  Unfortunately, a wheelchair user must be very careful that both wheels hit the hump at the same time or the chair will rock, threatening a collision with the door frame.   You can replace the raised threshold plate with a flat one but then must put a weather proofing strip on the bottom of the door to close the gap.  This item is available at most hardware stores.

Getting out of bed/Bed Handle – For people with the problem of getting out of bed independently, a bed handle may be the solution. This bedrail gives a person something to pull up with, helps them turn in bed, or can provide support when standing.  It is only about 1 1/2 feet long which is shorter than a normal bedrail.  This short rail is not effective for keeping someone in bed, however, it provides something to grasp while being short enough to allow someone to swing their legs over the side to stand.   M-rail

Many times only minor changes are necessary to bring an obstacle down to size.  The first step to problem solving is to recognize the actual stumbling block.  Once identified, consider whether an alternative approaches would help you reach the goal.

I have only touched on a few problems but my website, (ELT), may identify other problems and their solutions.   The products in this article can be found by entering the Keyword in the Search Box.  While you are there, explore the site. There is a Forum to ask for and share suggestions to overcome barriers, Tips for Empowered Living, and even games to add a little levity to you life.