According to the last census, some 50 million people in our country have a type of disability. Although some of these disabilities are not overly significant, at least 7 million of these people have trouble moving about their own home. These are very significant numbers, which also means that housing has to be adapted in order to meet the needs of these people. Unfortunately, there are no rules yet on home accessibility on a federal level, although this may yet change. The problem with this is that there is no federal funding available to support the financial cost of adapting a home. But how does a home need to be adapted to become handicap safe?
First of all, all hallways and doorways have to have clear paths to get through. This is because any laws that are in place surrounding disability issues tend to focus on those in wheelchairs. Hence, all doors have to have an opening of at least 32 inches. Also, all thresholds have to be rounded and should be no more than one and a half inch in height. This is because a threshold is not only dangerous for a wheelchair user, but also for those who use canes or walkers. The hallway has to be at least 36 inches wide. It may require additional width if it is the home of a wheelchair users, and there are any sharp turns. A focus also needs to be given to stairs. This is why each tread should be at least 11 inches in height. Furthermore, the recommendation is to add a stair lift. If a stair lift is not installed, there should at least be handrails on both sides.
Closet space in walk-in closets should be adapted with adjustable rods, for better storage options. The official recommendation is to use pull-down rods. Plus carpets are generally a very bad idea. Not only is plush carpeting a tripping hazard, it also makes it a lot more difficult to maneuver a wheelchair around. Hence, it is important to pick piling of no more than half an inch. Lastly, it may be necessary to make a few changes to the electrical workings of a home. This is why switches should all be placed at a height below 48 inches, where all outlets should be at least at 15 inches off the floor. These are the most basic of adaptations needed for those who have a form of disability. Other options, such as walk-in bathtubs and handrails can also be added. However, these are generally required for more specific disabilities and hence vary on a case by case basis.