Remodeling Tips: Accessibility Upgrades For Every Home

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accessibility grab bar

If you’re injured, will your home work against you? Here are some smart remodelling considerations to make that will also add value to your property.


When it comes to planning remodelling jobs, I often wonder just how many “what ifs” people are factoring into those plans.

What if you’re one of 80% of us who suffers a back injury? What if you’re like a friend of mine who’s suffered long-term vertigo symptoms? What if you injure a knee? Is your home accessible, if so?

No one’s recommending you halt your remodel to turn your home into some padded “safety-first” institutional dwelling, but a little common sense and foresight in your planning stages can make “what ifs” easier if they ever befall you.

Why going “accessible” is smart planning

Maybe in the next 20 years you’ll sell your home, or maybe you’ll still be where you are. Either way, putting some safety features and accessibility planning into your home makes financial sense. Fact is, we have an aging population, and some of them are your home’s target market.

If you sell the home, you’ll broaden that market by making your home a smart, well-planned dwelling that take accessibility into consideration.

If you stay there well into the future and your luck turns or a diagnosis spells out a different future than you imagined, you won’t be forced to make immediate, dramatic changes, but instead can focus on your challenges rather than having a home that challenges you further.

Accessibility: making sense for every body

Homes can be a huge part of the problem when one is recovering from injury or living with debilitation. Doorways, flooring, counters, power outlets, lighting placement, bathroom design, and so much more can all impact your quality of life if you’ve become compromised in any way.

Here are some areas to consider accessibly solutions as part of your current remodeling plans:

Railings where support is needed

Most shower/bath spaces should have a railing one can hold when getting in or out of a shower or bath. If you’ve got any kind of vertigo — which is much more common than most people realize and can be temporary with colds/flus — or other balance disorders, a railing could be life-saving. But it’s also critical for people who have foot or knee or other leg injuries, when they can’t put all their weight on a leg.

Either design the space so counters and other architectural features can lend themselves for support, or be blatant about it and install a hand-rail here or there.

Doors: handles & pulls

In Vancouver, Canada, it’s now not legal to use “doorknobs” in new builds. Levers and handles are the accessible way of the future. With the number of hand issues on the rise due to professional strain from typing and chronic smart-phone use, as well as just from an aging population, arthritis, and other factors, opening doors with old-school knobs can be a real pain for some.

And being able to open your door quickly or easily isn’t just a quality of life issue, but it could make the difference in successfully fleeing a fire or other timely matters of escape.

Similarly, kitchen and bathroom cupboards are better served with handles, not knobs, where the pulls are concerned. These can be used more easily by people with gripping issues or loss of hand strength that comes from carpal tunnel syndrome and other increasingly-common troubles.

accessibility crutches man arms wall

Level thresholds

If you’ve ever injured your lumbar or snapped a hamstring, you’ll know how torturous it can be to raise your feet more than a couple inches off the ground.

It’s easier to just frame out a doorway with your standard raised threshold or sill, but that’s a considerable obstacle to folks with walking issues or wheelchairs. Instead, creating a nice leveled threshold that’s flush with the flooring will make every doorway a breeze to enter. Avoiding or modifying step-up entrances wherever possible is also a huge help for any mobility issues.

Power outlet placement

Today, we live and die by charging up our gadgets. Having easily-accessibly outlets that are kitted out even with USB and other charging options could be a huge convenience factor in the near future. After all, a charged phone is a necessity in this age.

Have an assortment of outlet placement options throughout your home and ensure they’re easy to spot and access, so not all of them require bending over or reaching.

Window openings

Don’t just consider the look of your windows, consider how easily they’ll be opened and closed. Mine would be terribly difficult for anyone in a wheelchair or who’s elderly. They’re also nearly impossible to close from a seated position, so when I was recently on crutches, I found myself suffering through the cold because it was too challenging to hobble over on crutches to close ‘em up and I kept forgetting them when I was already standing.

Look for easy levers for opening the window, ensure they can be reached from a seated position. Avoid crank-style or push-up window designs, as they can be really troublesome for some folks.

Consult a pro

When you’re choosing items for your remodel, consider how convenient it’ll be for you or anyone else if there’s a mobility or balance issue in play. Ask them how it’s rated for accessibility and see what other options might exist that can not only look great but build added security into your home.

This attention to detail and a careful, cosmetic application of the solutions can translate into value added to your home if you decide to sell it. It will certainly broaden your market. Until that day, you can rest assured that your home will be less likely to work against you if you’re ever nursing a bum knee or stiff back after a weekend-warrior mishap.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.