How To Build an Accessible Home
An accessible home is one that not only makes life easier for the mobility impaired, but is also one that’s sustainable.
Owners of homes that are built in an accessible way can live comfortably for decades to come, without the need for expensive modifications in the future. Plus, building a house that is accessible means there’s no restrictions for people that visit your home, and no restrictions if you find yourself with an injury!
If you’re interested in incorporating some accessibility features into your new home, it’s important to consider a few things first:
Adding even just a meter to the driveway and garage will remove the stress of getting in and out of a car, plus it’s so much easier to park! To help give you an idea of size, public disabled carparks are 2400mm wide x 5400mm long with a shared area along one side of the space.
There should be a clear, wide and sealed flat path between the garage and the front door, making sure there is no steep inclines, curbs, or stairs. If you’re planting trees or bushes along front paths make sure there are no hazardous branches that could be problematic in terms of overhead clearance or vision impairment.
Next, you should ensure that your doors are user friendly. This means building a door that is wide enough for wheelchair access, is not too heavy or difficult to open, and has a handle that’s easy to use. Round door handles may prove difficult to manipulate, so it’s best to choose a D-Shaped handle.
The door width for adequate wheelchair access is a minimum of 813mm and should open away from the body (in towards the house). This is slightly wider than the standard front door, but there are many available on the market. Large entry doors are very on trend and add a feeling of grandeur and opulence, which also provides a great first impression for visitors and bypasses!
Bathrooms and Toilets:
People with impairments use amenities differently to most and may take a little longer to use them. Adding an extra bathroom to your home will ensure there’s ample facilities for everyone to use. Also, having the toilet separate to the rest of the bathroom means the toilet can still be used while someone is in the shower.
Flooring and drainage is crucial to safety, ensuring that everyone who uses the bathroom will have a reduced risk of slipping over. A non-slip floor will also assist this, as will providing a uniform flat surface between the shower and the rest of the bathroom.
Taps and fittings in an accessible bathroom need to be within an arm’s reach and easy to manipulate. You should also leave underneath the sink empty so that wheelchairs can get up close the vanity.
Grab rail supports are necessary for providing stability around the bathroom. They help the mobility impaired get on and off the toilet, as well as into showers and bathtubs. Other options include walk-in baths, electric toilets and even remote controlled showers (who wouldn’t want one of those?).
While carpet is a popular choice, it’s hard to roll wheels over. Opt for tiled or timber flooring instead! Not only is it easier for those in a wheelchair, it’s also modern and clean. Just remember that a high-gloss tile can sometimes mean a high-slip tile, which is bad news for people with crutches or canes.
Floor space in living areas is paramount for manoeuvrability. If any of your furniture is going to be built in, make sure there is still room for people with varying degrees of mobility. Move loose furniture to the outside walls and remove coffee tables in favour of side tables to provide plenty of space to get around without added obstacles.
In terms of window furnishing, long curtains that puddle on the floor can be tripping hazards and can get caught up in wheels. Blinds with cords may also be difficult to reach, so a great option is custom fitted shutters. They’re easy to use and you certainly won’t need to compromise on style.
Just like the main doors in your house, the handles you choose for your drawers and cupboards in your kitchen should be easy to use, with round handles to be avoided. Just like with the bathroom, keep underneath the sink empty to provide space for wheelchairs to get up close. Replacing under bench storage with drawers also makes access to stored items much easier, and likewise takes the struggle out of getting to the items at the back. Having lowered sections of benchtops are perfect for wheelchair users to use as prep areas. The standard bench height is 900mm but reducing it as little as 50mm makes all the difference.
Safety and accessibility features are becoming the norm with kitchen appliances. Ovens that open sideways rather than down wards are now available, which enables people to get close without having to lean over a hot door. We’re also seeing staggered stove tops with controls along the front, which eliminate the danger of reaching across hot burners.
Hopefully we’ve covered just about everything you should incorporate into your beautiful new accessible home. Following these tips will ensure your home is one that people from all walks of life can enjoy.
Able 2 UK, Wheelchair Accessible Living Room Designs, http://www.able2uk.com/disability-news/wheelchair-accessible-living-room-designs, Accessed 24/02/17
Disability Horizons, Disability and independence: creating an accessible bathroom, http://disabilityhorizons.com/2016/03/disability-and-independence-creating-an-accessible-bathroom/, Accessed 24/02/17
Easterseals Crossroads, Top 5 things to consider when designing an accessible kitchen for wheelchair users, http://www.eastersealstech.com/2014/06/04/accessiblekitchendesign/, Accessed 24/02/17
Equal Access Australia, Accessible (Disabled) Car Parking Requirements, https://www.disabilityaccessconsultants.com.au/accessible-disabled-car-parking-requirements/, Accessed 24/02/17
Handle House, https://handlehouse.com.au/product/l11-mackay-door-handles/, Accessed 24/02/17
The KingBorough Council, Building an accessible home, http://www.kingborough.tas.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/Building%20in%20Kingborough%2015.02.16.pdf, Accessed 24/02/17