Christine A Howard

How To Make Your Home Handicap Accessible

Our family has been a special needs family for many years, but dealing with mobility issues has been a new adventure. When my daughter first came to live with us, we thought her mobility issue would improve over time, and they have to some degree. However, she will always have trouble with mobility. Because of this, we have been working to make our home handicap accessible. Here are some areas to consider…

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Finding Funding

As you may have guessed, making a home accessible can cost literally thousands of dollars. This is money we just did not have, so at first we really thought it was hopeless. Instead, we did our best to live in a multilevel home that was definitely not handicap accessible.

Medicaid and Other Government Funding

That was until we were introduced to the idea that it is cheaper for our girls to live in our house, than eventually be in out-of-home care. Medicaid also realizes this, and is willing to help families make adjustments to their homes. If your child receives any type of Medicaid or Social Security funding, they may qualify for home renovation money. Check with your child’s social worker to get started.

Other Funding Sources

For smaller projects such as ramps, accessible gardens, or handicap accessible picnic tables, you could try local charitable organizations. While these organizations may not fund the entire project, they quite often will provide the manpower. This could end up being significantly cheaper when you are not paying for expensive labor. Make sure to check local laws on building code to ensure this is legal in your area.

Organizations worth looking into include:

  • Local Scouting Troops
  • Church Groups
  • High School or College Woodworking Classes
  • FFA or 4-H Programs

Bathroom

One of the biggest areas in any home that may require some adjustments to become handicap accessible it the bathroom. I know that our 1970s bathroom definitely needed major adjustments. Even the doorway was too small for a wheelchair to pass through.

We did our best to work with the situation, but it presented a lot of back breaking work for my husband and me. We were thrilled when we were granted enough money to completely remodel our bathroom.

We now have a wider doorway, an accessible shower, and a vanity that works with a wheelchair. Our daughter can now take a shower almost completely independently, which of course she loves. What teen wants her parents having to help her in the bathroom, right.

Here are some areas that you may want to think about if a full remodel is out of the question:

  • Grab bars
  • Not slip surfacing
  • Hand-held shower head
  • Standing counter mirror
  • Single handle faucet

Stairway

When we purchased our home, we loved the five bedrooms and three bathrooms. It was not on our radar at the time that we would someday have a daughter with mobility issues, so the many stairs in our house did not matter.

Well, fast forward to today, and stairs are a nightmare that we had been dealing with for a couple of years. Our daughter endured two very major surgeries that required a hoyer lift and a wheelchair full-time. Because of this, we had to begin schooling her at home, as she could not leave our home in her chair. In fact, after her back surgery, she did not leave the house at all for three solid months.

With the grant we received from the Waiver Program, we were able to add a lift to the outside of our home. This also allowed us to purchase a power chair via insurance. Now our daughter simply gets in her chair, and goes out the door. It’s the simple things in life that we take for granted, and when you can get those things back, it is huge.

The cost of a ramp or a lift is expensive, but not out of the question. With a tax refund or a fundraiser, you could easily have the funds. To put in a lift, a wood landing and a sidewalk, it was roughly nine-thousand dollars. If all you need is a ramp, the costs could be much less. For us, moving was out of the question, and the lift has a lifesaver. The other nice thing about a lift, is you can take it with you if you do have to move.

Backyard

Everyone in our house loves to be outside in the summer. Not all of us can actually enjoy the outdoors though. That is until we decided to make our backyard handicap accessible. We realized that our daughter could not get in our pool, play in the sand box, or help in the garden. Since these are all things that she really loves, it would make her sad to have to watch everyone else have fun. Below is a list of things we have changed in our backyard to make things much more fun for our daughter.

Raised Garden Beds

Our daughter loves to garden, so one of the first things we did was make raised garden beds. We do not have a workshop or a lot of woodworking knowledge. If we can build the garden beds, so can pretty much anyone.

For each garden bed, we purchased six 8 foot by 12 inch treated deck boards. When we got the boards home, we simply cut each board in half so that we had twelve 4 foot by 12 inch boards. If you don’t have a saw, most lumber stores do sell 4 foot boards, and if not, some will actually cut the boards for you. We also purchased four 2×2 posts that were 4 feet deep. These became the corner pieces.

Once everything was cut, we began screwing the boards together to make a 4ft x 4ft square that was three layers tall. At the bottom, we stapled garden fabric to prevent weeds from growing. Then it was time to place the gardens and fill them with dirt. Since winter in Wisconsin is a season that seems to last 10 months, I don’t have a great photo yet. I will come back to add one when spring does finally decide to arrive.

Sidewalk Chalk

Everyone in my family loves sidewalk chalk, even my adult children. This is something that can be quite difficult for those in a wheelchair. There really are two options. The first involves purchasing a sidewalk chalk extender arm. This allows the user to sit in their chair and still reach the sidewalk with the chalk. You can see a picture of this below.

While these are great if all you want to do is make random lines, but what if you want to make masterpieces? Then you need an outdoor chalkboard. These are really easy to make and fun for everyone to use. The pictures don’t get stepped on either.

If you want to make one, you will need a large section of sturdy plywood and some chalkboard paint. Paint the board on all sides, let the board dry, and then hang it in a good location. It’s really that easy.

Picnic Table

Last summer we decided to take a picnic to our local park, and low and behold, there was a handicap picnic table for my daughter. It felt like the clouds had opened and sun was shining just on us.

We plan on adding one of these to our backyard this year, so I cannot offer you much advice on how to make these, but it does not look difficult. It appears as if the middle of one of the wooden seat benches is cut to allow a wheelchair access to the table. This leaves two end seats on either side of the wheelchair.

We found a local organization that will allow us to come in and build our table for a small fee. If this is something you would like to add to your yard, but like us don’t have the proper tools, try a local organization. Scouting groups are always looking for Eagle Projects. If you supply the lumber, they just may build it for you free of charge. This may even be a great woodworking project for a local high school student.

Raised Sand Table

These can be purchased at just about any store that sells children’s toys. However, if you want an older looking version like we did, you may want to build your own. You could simply use a raised garden bed for this as well.

We decided to build our own at the local woodworking shop. The plastic sand tables seem to be a bit too small to accommodate our daughter’s chair. If you cannot build your own, again a local teen or organization may build you one without a fee.

Water Play

Unfortunately, there is no way for us to safely get my daughter into our pool. Water is something my daughter loves, so we did get her a water table. The only trouble with these, is that one one wants to play with her and the activities are meant for little people.

So, this year, we purchased a very large inflatable rainbow sprinkler that she can run through with her chair. Now, she will be able to get wet with everyone else. These can be found most places, but the cheapest option seems to be on Amazon.

Blogging Through The Alphabet

Let’s hear what you came up with for the Letter E this week. You can add your post below. And don’t forget to visit the co-hosts and other participants.

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