Following on from my ‘How to Design a Wheelchair Accessible Home Part 1‘ I wanted to put down some more ideas of things that you might want to think about when renovating your home or if you’re lucky to start from scratch.
In the previous post we talked about doors, floors and space. Today we’re going to talk about a few more things that you might not have thought about unless you’re a wheelchair user or know a wheelchair user. These are some of the things we’ve found out since Mr Wheel Chic Home has been in the chair full time.
Access into the Home
This is a pretty obvious one, isn’t it! If you’re walking and going in and out of your home you probably won’t have even noticed the threshold on the front door. Any older home in the UK typically has a threshold of around 7cm, which we just habitually and instinctively step over without much thought. But it’s not possible for a wheelchair user to get the chair over that. It’s also difficult for people with mobilty issues on crutches or with sticks to navigate.
You can get wheelchair accessible thresholds which are about 1.5cm and can be rolled over pretty easily, most of that 1.5cm is rubber which is flexible enough to get the wheels over without an issue. All new homes in the UK must have wheelchair accessible thresholds and wide doors as standard
We’ve upgraded our Front Door, patio doors and office door to a wheelchair threshold so he can wheel over it pretty easily.
Next up we need to think about a ramp. I’ve spoken about ramps here, we haven’t converted the front door but we did ramp the side and rear garden access to the kitchen patio doors. We might do the front at some point too, but actually the back door works pretty well, it’s a little wider for him to get into.
As a reminder – ramps will usually (for a manual chair in a domestic enviroment) have a 1:12 ratio. So for every inch (2.5cm) in height, you need a ramp of one foot (30cm) in length. So a doorstep like ours, of 25cm (10 inches) you will need a three metre ramp (about 10 feet). You can go to a 1:10 ratio if you have an electric chair, but check the regulations to make sure it’ll work for you.
For a 1:12 ratio, This means we would lose a parking space on our drive (and our drive is on a slope) so it would need to be longer. Any long ramp also requires a turning point in per UK Building Regs Section M. The rear access works pretty well for us for now and is a simple long, smooth, gentle slope.
Storage is always important, regardless of whether you use a wheelchair or not. When you use a wheelchair having storage at a level that’s easy to reach is critical. Anything too high up and it’s hard to reach, anything too low and too far away is also a no-no. In a kitchen, having pan drawers or pullout storage is great because it will allow you to see everything in the drawer at once, without having to bend over and scrabble to reach the back of a low cupboard.
We’ve recently put all of our plates and bowls down low so Mr Wheel Chic Home can reach them. We also have a separate cupboard low down for the things he uses most often, like boxes for snacks to take into his garden office and his favourite mugs and cups.
When we designed our wardrobe, we added sliding doors for easy access, added a grab rail so he can use it to help him stand, and low level hanging for jeans and trousers. He’s able to easily pull something off the hanger from seated and uses a grabber to put hangers back on the top rail. However, there are brilliant options for wardrobes and closets to put the rail down towards you. We don’t have the room for this right now, but I keep checking those lottery tickets!
If you have an older home in the UK it’s quite likely your plug sockets are pretty low down to the floor – it’s quite common to even have sockets cut into the skirting boards! But for newer homes, the building regulations require that plug sockets in the UK are no lower than 45cm from the floor and light sockets are to be no higher than 120cm from the floor. This allows wheelchair users and elderly people to use the sockets safely.
If you have the opportunity to renovate your home and re-do the electrics, do think about placement and height of sockets are easy to reach, particularly in the kitchen or beside the bed. Sockets that are covered by a bedside table are hard to reach without moving the furniture, kitchen sockets are tucked right at the back of the worktop which can be hard to reach.
USB sockets are a great idea for everyone to keep your phone charged by the bed, and saves you the need to keep plugging and unplugging items as it leaves the plug socket free for something else.
Light switches that are easy to operate are also a great idea for those with dexterity issues, and they look great. We have a Buster and Punch retro style toggle switch in our living room and it’s really easy for Mr WCH to reach and to switch it on and off.
Lighting beside the bed needs to be easy to reach when laying down, we’ve been to so many ‘accessible’ hotel rooms with a bedside lamp that he can’t reach without falling off the bed. Having a switch on the cable, or a lamp where you tap the base to operate it are great ideas to help get the light turned off. Or get some smart lighting and attach it to your smart speaker. Take a look a Lee’s house here – he has a lot of great technology that can help the less able. Also I’ve talked about great accessible technology options here and here.
There’s lots more to consider in a wheelchair accessible home of course, but I’ll carry on adding to my list in future posts. What other ideas do you have for important considerations? Let me know in the comments below…