DIY Ways to Make Your Home Handicap Accessible

Posted by on Aug 27, 2022

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Most homes are not built for someone who navigates life in a wheelchair. The counters are too high. The closets can be too narrow. The doorways turn into disaster areas. 

Creating custom fixes for these issues aren’t just fun projects. For people in wheelchairs, they’re necessities. Depending on one’s physical challenges and personal preferences, these modifications have to be made to detailed specs that align with an individual’s capabilities. 

Here's a handful of ways a home can be modified. Finding plans for these changes can be tough because of the detailed adjustments. But several videos have been made with ideas and general guidelines. Take a look below and get moving in the right direction for your custom home.

Wheelchair Ramp

The size and slope of a wheelchair ramp often depends on how much room you have around your home. If you have plenty of space and a flat terrain, the ramp can be long with a slight incline that inches up to the door. If you have a small yard or hilly terrain, you’ll need to plan around them, possibly creating a structure with two connected inclines and a u-turn to allow for a longer runway with a manageable height. 

Depending on the regulations in your city or state, you or your landlord may need to install handicap access to comply with local building and occupancy codes. Ramps not only need to be functional, but ideally, aesthetically pleasing. 

For DIYers, cement and wood are often the materials of choice. Some ramps are also metal, but will likely require a metalworker (unless that is your area of expertise.) 

In the video above, Bob Vila’s team demonstrates how to create a cement slope that transitions to wood as it gets closer to the house. The wood section is made out of pressure-treated material to stand up against the both the weather and the rubbing from a wheelchair. The space also has to be wide enough to allow not only for the chair, but also a railing to help the user pull his or her way up. If you have experience building a deck, it will likely come in handy creating the ramp. Those who don’t have much building under their belt should probably get a designer or architect to help with plans.

Patio or Stair Lift

Installing a patio lift elevator costs more than building a ramp, yet takes up less space. You’ll probably also need to lay down cement to support the machinery, unless you have an existing sidewalk or cement deck that can work as a foundation. 

You’ll also need a drill with a large enough bit to dig out the holes for the anchor nuts. Some electric wiring may be necessary, depending on the voltage required by the machine and your external power sockets. The above video by Exquisite Dobermans explains how he a homeowner found a lift on Craigslist and created a sidewalk that would hold the second-hand machine. 

If you have an outdoor stairway and live in the UK, you may want to contact a company like Stairlifthelper to see if one of their options can be cost effective. The site compares quotes from multiple companies and offers new and used lifts.

Customizing the Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom

If you’re remodeling your kitchen, bedroom, bathroom or other parts of the house, several elements can be customized for wheelchair access. Ideally the doorways will be widened and the thresholds leveled to make wheeling in and out easier. In a kitchen, the space around the counters not only needs to be wide enough for a person in a wheelchair to enter, but also for that person reach into the fridge, cook on the stove, eat and wash dishes. 

Beyond creating room, other modifications may make sense. Tables and counters set at the appropriate with long overhangs can enable wheels to slide underneath and eat comfortably. Rearranging the plumbing underneath the sink can make room for a wheelchair-bound resident to do the dishes. 

For the bedroom, the bed frame can adjusted or built to specs that make it comfortable to transfer from chair to mattress. If a closet can be walk-in it can also be modified to roll-in. 

The bathroom comes with its own set of challenges that may require safety bars in the shower and next to the toilet. Other adjustments can also include changing the height of the vanity and rearranging the plumbing underneath the sink to make it easier for a seated person to use.