There are guidelines in place to assist elderly and physically challenged people when it comes to accessing public spaces and the space within their living environment. Guidelines set for by the ADA, otherwise known as The American with Disabilities Act. It is important that caregivers of individuals falling into this category are knowledgeable about current requirements. Contractor’s making handicap construction type upgrades should be certified by the ADA. There are major differences involved in making a home safe, room by room, for those with special needs.
One room in particular that needs special attention is the bathroom. Grab bars need to be installed and professionally anchored into the wall. It is important to note that standard wall anchors might not be enough to hold the weight of an individual day after day. It is important to look to use products that are specifically designed for ADA purposes. Look for fasteners that state “For use in universal design construction”. These products are rated to hold upwards of 600 pound or more. If someone is using the grab bar as they are about to fall the pull, push force will indeed be more than the 200 pound rating of standard anchors.
Floor space is an issue throughout the home. The clear space needed to accommodate a wheelchair user is at least 30″ x 48″. When designing the furniture within a room it is best to keep in mind that wheelchairs need to be able to approach the space forward or parallel for ease of transfer. Also keep in mind the material used for flooring. Carpets with frieze or shag are not good choices for those with mobility issues as well as the use of floor rugs. The carpet or flooring should be smooth and obstacle free. Baskets are used a lot to keep clutter under control but those also can be nuisances when navigating using a walker, wheelchair, cane or crutches.
Kitchens spaces are unavoidable and must be designed around those living in the space that are limited in movement, mobility and other ADA needs. An open kitchen design is obviously the best option for any home that will be used during the aging in place process or for physically challenged individuals. With the new technology that is available this is easier to achieve than ever before. Start by adding extra lighting throughout the kitchen, including under cupboard lighting. This will help illuminate the counter work space when preparing meals.
It is important that everything be within reach as well. This will mean installing fixtures that are easy to manipulate. Avoid knobs that are small or need to be turned. Lazy-Susan shelving and cupboards with multiple sliding shelves are the best option for people with disability. This allows things to be within reach without having to stand on a step stool or stretch to reach. Faucets should be those that do not require turning, single handle faucets are super easy to manipulate for hands that are aching from arthritis or that are losing their mobility.
The biggest thing to remember when upgrading your home to age in place or to accommodate a loved one with limited abilities is to hire someone who is familiar with handicap construction and age in place home modifications. Not all general contractors have experience in the world of universal design and all of the items that need special attention. One thing to learn is that not ever wall anchor is suited for use in ADA renovations. Even if the rating seems high enough for the amount of pressure anticipated to be put on the object consider the force that occurs when falling or bracing one’s self. This is the weight you are anchoring!