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Handicap Accessible Homes
Paragon C&D Builders / Vallone Real Estate
Wednesday, January 4, 2012 • Posted January 5, 2012 3:33 PM

After my 76-year-old father fell off a ladder and broke his leg, I decided it’s probably a good time to write about making your homes handicap-accessible. Luckily, when we built their home, we did include a lot of these features. However, if you are considering a new home or remodeling to include handicap-accessible features, you might want to include some of these.

Let’s start with a remodel and possible changes. Look around your home and ask yourself some questions. Can I get up stairs? Get through doors? Will a wheelchair go into the shower or get up to a sink? Do you need some grab bars in the shower and toilet areas? Can you access items and cook in your kitchen? If you cannot do all or some of these, it’s time to call in a contractor. Finding a contractor familiar with handicap-accessible home construction can be a real challenge for anyone, so make sure they know what they are doing. Just putting in a grab bar is good, but knowing where to put it in can make a world of difference. If there are steps, you might need a ramp built and/or hand rails. Most people don’t think about access to items in the kitchen. You might need to rearrange your plates and glasses for easy access. Or have the contractor build you some lower cabinets or slide-out shelves. You might need to remove carpet and put in different flooring for easier mobility. The biggest change might be in doorways to allow a wheelchair or walker to go through. A higher toilet might be something else to consider. Everyone’s needs will be different, but you can start with some of these basics and go from there.

Designing a new home with handicap accessibility is a lot easier than making all the modifications when you need them at the last moment. Most traditional homebuilders do not take these needs into account. You don’t have to be an elderly person to need handicap-accessible features. Anyone can break a leg and need to get through a doorway with a walker or into a shower, so think about some of these features when you are designing your home now and not later. Critical areas to consider are doorways, kitchens, bathrooms, and stairs. If you are going to include stairs, or just a few steps, these can become an obstacle later. Will you need a ramp? This might be the easiest thing to add. In order to accommodate a wheelchair, (a standard wheelchair is 24-27" wide), doorways should be a minimum of 32" wide. If the doorway is located in the typical hallway and requires turning a wheelchair, you’ll need a 36" door (we suggest 36" doors and larger hallways in your designs). Accessible kitchen configurations might include pull-out shelves, lower storage for plates and more, lower sinks, smooth flooring (no rugs), lower light switches and plugs, to name a few. For bathrooms, bathtubs can be dangerous, so think about a roll-in shower concept. Taller toilets are great for anyone as they get up in age or have knee problems. And don’t forget those grab bars and safety rails! But, you don’t want to just add grab bars and safety rails just anywhere. You need to make sure you place these in the proper places to be truly effective. Lower light switches are a must if you have a wheelchair.

Preparing ahead of time can be a lifesaver, but changes can be made at the last minute, too. Again, the most important thing, call in a contractor who understands the designs and needs of making a home handicap-accessible.

And on a personal note, don’t get on a ladder when you shouldn’t. And always keep your cell phone with you so you can call someone in the case of an emergency.

For all your real estate and building needs or questions, call Debbie at 830-833-4249 or 713-818-6658, or send an email to debbie@vallone realestate.net.

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