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Practical Ways to Build a Disability-Accessible Home

Patrick Young

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For people with brain injuries and other disabilities, house hunting can feel like a bleak and hopeless process — there just aren’t a lot of accessible homes on the market. While about five percent of homes in the United States are considered accessible for people with moderate mobility limitations, only a tiny portion of homes can comfortably accommodate a wheelchair user. If your budget allows, building your own home is an excellent way to get around this issue. Here are some of the best tips to consider before breaking ground on your new home.

Practical Ways to Build a Disability-Accessible Home

Patrick Young

*Hyperlinks for additional information are included throughout this article; click on the associated highlighted words to learn more.

For people with brain injuries and other disabilities, house hunting can feel like a bleak and hopeless process — there just aren’t a lot of accessible homes on the market. While about five percent of homes in the United States are considered accessible for people with moderate mobility limitations, only a tiny portion of homes can comfortably accommodate a wheelchair user. If your budget allows, building your own home is an excellent way to get around this issue. Here are some of the best tips to consider before breaking ground on your new home.

Assemble Your Design and Building Team

Hiring professionals to help with your new home building project starts by choosing to work with a general contractor or an architect. When it comes to design, whether to hire an architect or a general contractor depends on where you’re building. Some planned communities have contracts with local builders, and the selection of floor plans and exteriors is limited mainly according to HOA guidelines. If going with an architect, try to find one who has worked on accessible home designs before, since an experienced professional should have the skills to create a home that meets your functionality needs without compromising on style.

Another key player on your team is a home builder. Your home builder will oversee the entire building project from start to finish, managing sub-contractors and general laborers and ensuring everything is built exactly to plan. The National Association of Home Builders suggests looking for a reputable home builder online by reading reviews left by past customers. It’s a good idea to interview any professionals you intend to hire for your project, so asking certain questions about the scope of work and project budget before meeting with potential candidates is critical.

Focus on Kitchen and Bathroom Features

The kitchen and bathroom are the two places where accessibility features are especially important. Navigating a cramped bathroom in a wheelchair is frustrating and unsafe. Work with your designer to create a large accessible bathroom with a zero-threshold walk-in shower, a raised toilet, and lowered countertops with space underneath to accommodate a wheelchair. If you want to be able to take baths, plan to install a specialized tub with a door in the sidewall.

Also, consider making similar design decisions in the kitchen. Besides installing lowered countertops, AbleThrive recommends making your kitchen accessible with an extra shallow sink, pull-down cabinets, and off-the-floor appliances with side-opening doors. Rotating Lazy Susan trays can make cabinets more accessible. Ensure the kitchen flooring is non-slip since spills can create serious safety hazards on polished hardwood and tile floors, increasing the risk for physical and brain injuries.

Create an Accessible Outdoor Living Area

An outdoor living area extends your home’s livable square footage and gives you an inviting place to relax or entertain guests. To build an accessible outdoor space, start by creating smooth patios and walkways with interlocking pavers that will allow you to maneuver your wheelchair around effortlessly. Paths winding around your home exterior and garden will allow you to get the most out of your property.

Keep in mind that you might have to add a ramp here and there to accommodate changes in the terrain or connect your walkways to your house. Incorporating ramps into your home design from the beginning will ensure they seamlessly mesh with the rest of your home. Finally, installing a wide sliding patio door will ensure that your outdoor living space is easily accessible from inside your home. While patio doors without thresholds can be difficult to find, your builders should be able to create a custom solution to fit your needs.

Every house hunter knows there’s no such thing as the perfect property. Chances are, if you want to live in the home of your dreams, you will have to build it yourself. Assemble your team of professionals, come up with a functional and stylish design, and be sure to incorporate the features that matter most to you. Your custom home will be well worth the wait.

Patrick Young is an educator and activist. He believes people with disabilities live within a unique set of circumstances–the outside world often either underestimates them or ignores their needs altogether. He created Able USA to offer helpful resources to people with disabilities and to provide advice on navigating various aspects of life as a person with disabilities.

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Workgroup
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Neuro Info-Line: 888-500-9165

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