There are 14.1 million people with a disability living in the UK. These figures take into account a broad spectrum of conditions that are classified as a disability which can require a variety of different adjustments to make a space more accessible. But, what is often common among the varied conditions experienced, is that accommodations make living with a disability easier for those people. From ensuring environments account for accessibility to providing safety features and enhancements, there are lots of ways we can make our homes more disability-friendly.
Depending on the type of disability or mobility concern you or your loved one is experiencing there are a multitude of ways that homes can be adapted to make them a more welcoming space. From a little help in the kitchen or bathroom which are considered high-risk areas for slips and falls, to making a property wheelchair accessible, we’re going to review how to make your home more accessible.
- Provide ramps instead of steps
Whether you or someone you live with uses a wheelchair or has mobility issues, swapping out stairs for a ramp is one of the best ways to make your home more disability-friendly. If you can’t completely renovate your property to exchange your stairs for a ramp, consider whether you can use temporary measures.
Like a portable ramp or if wheelchair access isn’t required, evaluate how you can make the stairs more accessible – such as by adding non-slip surfaces and handrails for extra support. Before you start any work on installing a ramp, you will need to check what permissions are required for any work completed on your home, as well as what will be possible with your current fit-out.
- Widen doorways to create more space
Space can be one of the biggest barriers when it comes to accessibility in the home. To make your house more disability-friendly, consider widening doorways to accommodate the additional width of a wheelchair or walker. With many British homes being hundreds of years old, they tend to be built narrower than modern homes.
Broadening the width of your doorway can be a costly process. You may need to ask what changes you can make to your property if there are restrictions or covenants in place before you undertake any work.
- Consider automatic doors
While not as common, you can look to install automatic doors in your house. While these are more commonly used in commercial buildings, they can be particularly useful for those in a wheelchair. Giving the option of greater accessibility by removing the need to try to open doors, this may be an option you wish to consider.
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- Install a stairlift if you have a multi-storey property
A lot of British homes are multi-storey, which means stairs are an inevitable part of your living experience. If you or someone living in your home is a wheelchair user or has mobility issues that make stairs an impossibility, a stairlift is a modification worth considering for your home.
Stairs pose a problem for many people who experience mobility issues, so installing a stairlift can make a huge difference to the quality of your living space. Stairlifts are available in both permanent and on-the-go solutions that provide flexibility depending on your circumstances. So long as you can transfer in and out of a wheelchair, a stairlift is a wonderful addition to make your home more accessible.
- Handrails on both sides of the staircase
If you or your loved one can still access and use stairs but requires a little additional support, then adding an additional handrail could be all you need. By offering support on both sides, it can increase the safety of using stairs in your home. It’s worthwhile extending the handrail beyond the first and last stair. This will enable residents to secure their grip before approaching the stairs and is particularly useful for those with visual impairments, as it offers support before walking on an uneven surface.
- Replace carpets with wooden floors
Whether someone in your home is using a wheelchair or has other mobility-related concerns, switching out your carpeted floors for wooden flooring can make moving around the home much easier. Carpets, especially those with a deeper pile, can prevent wheels from moving freely, obstruct or catch walkers, or cause trip hazards for people that may have trouble lifting their feet higher off the ground. Changing your flooring is a moderately affordable change to your home that can be done fairly quickly and has a big impact. Likewise, large rugs can also be an issue, particularly posing a trip hazard as the rug isn’t affixed to the flooring.
- Adjust the height of worktops
Adjusting the height of worktops can be a big job when adapting your home to be more disability-friendly. However, if you or someone you live with uses a wheelchair, this can make an enormous difference to the accessibility of the home. There are two options that you can consider when reviewing the height of your worktops. The first is to completely adapt the height so that most or all of the space is wheelchair accessible, which will involve lowering the height overall.
If this isn’t suitable, you may want to consider adjustable height worktops which allows you to adapt the height based on the needs of the user. This is especially useful if there are multiple users in the house, but not all require the same height. Adjusting the height of your worktops doesn’t only benefit wheelchair users. Those who may be unable to stand for long periods but want to use the kitchen can also make use of the lower level benchtops by using a seat to support them when cooking, preparing meals or washing up.
- Consider smart home installations such as blinds, lighting and TV
Smart home installations are a newer solution on the market, but they can have a big impact on improving the accessibility of a home. Blinds, lighting and tv controls that can either be managed from an app or panel can provide more autonomy for users and may require fewer changes to your household overall in the long term.
- Add grab bars in the bathroom
Grab bars are a fast and easy way to make your home more disability-friendly without costing you a lot of money or taking a long time to install. A quick and easy process that helps to turn your bathroom into a disability bathroom, grab bars offer additional support. Particularly useful for those who need a little extra confidence in high-slip locations such as tiled areas, they can make showering and using the toilet considerably easier.
Grab bars can be added to the shower to prevent slips and falls on slippery floors while also adding a balancing aid for people who experience mobility issues. In a similar fashion to wall grab bars, a frame can be installed around your toilet to provide additional support when sitting and standing – this can be beneficial for people who have mobility or strength-related disabilities or be added as a more temporary installation for those with injuries such as someone who is using crutches.
- Flip down shower chair
Not everyone can stand in the shower, which is why the addition of a flip-down shower chair can be a wonderful addition to your home. If you don’t have a bath, a flip-down shower chair can be used to provide waterproof seating for people who are unable to stand for long periods – such as for the length of a shower. Installing a flip-down design means the seat is secured to the wall, making it less hazardous than a free-standing chair which could tip, and it can be neatly stowed away when other members of the household are using the shower.
- Consider a walk-in shower
A walk-in shower is a great way to make your bathroom more disability-friendly. By removing the barriers of stepping into a shower, such as with a shower-over-bath design, trip and slip hazards are minimised. People with mobility issues or wheelchair users can access the shower with ease. Walk-in showers, sometimes known as level-access showers, don’t have a high tray either, making them a highly beneficial consideration when reviewing improvements to make to your home.
Walk-in showers also feature a range of other benefits that increase their appeal for a disability-friendly home, including the ability to add a foldable shower chair, support handrails, non-slip flooring to reduce slip risk, an easy temperature control system and the enclosures are easy to clean.
- Discover the benefits of a walk-in bath
Like a walk-in shower, a walk-in bath is an ideal consideration to make your home more accessible for disabled users. Designed to promote a safe and relaxing bathing environment, walk-in baths have watertight doors, allowing people to get into and out of the bathtub without having to lower themselves down into it. They’re usually compact and can be made so that the person sits up while bathing, but there are also more traditional walk-in baths that are full-length, allowing the person to lie down to enjoy their bathing.
Users can choose to have a walk-in bath with a lift that goes one step further and helps the person into the bath without them having to step through the door itself. Non-slip flooring, easy temperature controls and grab rails also make a walk-in bath a great choice for making your home more disability-friendly.
- Change doorknobs and tap fittings
There are many disabilities that affect a person’s dexterity which means using doorknobs and certain tap fittings can be a difficult task. Instead of a doorknob that is round and requires a firm grip around to turn, switch them for lever-style handles that can be pulled down and don’t require a tightened grip. The same applies to tap fittings. Rather than designs that require a turning motion, opt for lever designs that need less strength and give the user a greater space to pull to use the tap.
- Two-way switches
Two-way switches are convenient and increase safety in your home, making them the perfect addition to make your living space more disability-friendly. By installing switches at the entry point and near the bed for example, users can move from one area of the space to another without the risk of visibility issues. By providing dual-access points for power, particularly lighting, residents can also benefit. Whether someone is bedridden and needs to access to lighting from bed, those on crutches can move around without fear of tripping or wheelchair users can confidently move around without having to feel their way through the dark. Two-way switches are a small but mighty change that will improve the experience for everyone in the home.
- Review furniture placement
Furniture can become an obstacle for those with mobility concerns or those using a wheelchair to navigate their way around the home. Careful consideration of furniture placement can make a space significantly more liveable for those with disabilities. Keeping thoroughfares clear of furniture, avoiding pokey spaces that need to be accessed and ensuring there are no tight turns or sharp corners will make your home much more accessible for users. Also ensure you keep everyday items like utensils and servingware, books and remote controls in easy-to-reach places so they can be accessed quickly and without any barriers.
Making your home more accessible can include a range of adaptations from minor adjustments to larger renovations. The changes you consider will depend on the type of disability you are accommodating your living space for and your budget. By creating a more disability-friendly home, it will ensure it becomes a space to relax and feel safe while nurturing a welcoming and enjoyable environment.
Whether you choose to add small touches because you’re renting a property or updating your forever home to accommodate your needs, these tips should help inspire you. Let us know which features you’ve made in your home to foster a more disability-friendly space.