What is an Accessible Home?
I have been house shopping. There is a better chance of winning the lottery than finding the perfect home that is 100% accessible to meet my needs. The trick is to start with a list. I have made a list of what is important to me.
First on my list is first-floor living
Obviously, steps are a huge factor. Living in a one-story home with the fewest amount of steps to get in, is number one on my list. Over the years I have collected portable ramps. These have come in handy for getting into my living space. Now that I am looking to purchase I will probably want something more permanent and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Room to maneuver
Once I can get into a house the next thing on my list is the ability to access all the rooms. Are the doors wide enough? Do the hallways provide enough clearance so I can turn in and out of rooms? Can I get into the bathroom with my wheelchair?
Bathroom is important, kitchen not so much - for me
Everyone dealing with spinal muscular atrophy will probably have different wants and needs. I don’t have enough strength to cook, so an accessible kitchen is not high on my list of concerns. The bathroom is where I’ll probably spend the most money initially.
Accommodations over the years
One mistake that I have made throughout my life is that I made accommodations based on my current physical state. After graduating from college I moved into the apartment that was attached to my parent’s home. My grandmother previously lived there and we wanted to update the space. There was a bathtub/shower combo. At that time I was still moving around pretty well. So it was decided to just put in a standard walk-in shower. The kind that has about a 3-inch lip.
Unfortunately, the usefulness of the step-in shower only gave me about 7 years of independence. As the SMA took my strength it became increasingly difficult to navigate the shower.
We then decided to rip it out and install a roll-in shower. Obviously, bathroom renovations are not cheap. So my warning to everyone is to be honest with yourself. Prepare for the “worst-case scenario” when designing your bathroom. We should’ve installed a barrier-free shower from the beginning.
Accessible can be chic
We don’t have to settle on a utilitarian design. Depending on your budget you can have a fully accessible design that doesn’t have that accessible look. The key comes down to space.
Since I’m still able to stand and take a few steps while holding onto something I prefer a smaller space. This gives me the ability to hold onto something while walking. I’ve used grab bars as towel racks. When designing a bathroom, work with your contractor beforehand if you need grab bars. This way they can add extra support behind the drywall for the grab bars.
What are your priorities now and for the future
My advice is always to start with lists. Ask others for their designs. Scour the internet and see what you like and what will work best for your situation. Remember to consider if your situation might change over time. Are you still ambulatory? Will your strength decrease over time? Design your space for now and the future. It’ll save you time and money.
How accessible is your home?
Which best describes you?
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