Modifying Your Home for More Independence

Living with SMA

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a rare genetic condition that causes muscle weakness. People with SMA may have problems with doing daily activities, movement, and speech.1

Having an accessible home can help with some of the challenges of living with SMA. It can help with living more independently. There are many ways you can modify your home to make it more accessible. Here are some ideas to help.1

What is an accessible home?

Homes can be challenging places for people with limited abilities. An accessible home is a home where people with limited abilities can move around their home more safely and easily, because of specific changes they have made. For example, stairs can sometimes be difficult to use for people who struggle with movement. Ramps or lifts are a good alternative, accessible solution to stairs.1

Types of accessible home modifications

Ramps

Ramps are helpful outside your front door to help enter your home. Ramps allow you to access your home in a wheelchair. They are cost effective and do not require much maintenance. Aluminum ramps are easy to install and are durable.1

Lifts

Lifts can be helpful outside and inside your home. A porch lift, or platform lift, can help a person in a wheelchair go from ground level to their front door. They are easy to use and can take up less space than a ramp. But they may require some maintenance. Platform lifts can also be used inside the home, and act like an elevator.1

Incline lifts are often used if your house already has stairs. They can follow the incline of the stairs and allow a user to travel between floors. Incline lifts can be helpful if you live in a home with others who might also use the stairs.1

Transfer lifts help people move from their bed to a wheelchair, bath, or shower. Lifts that are mounted to the ceiling can support users and caregivers to make this transfer safely in bedrooms and bathrooms.1

Elevators

Some people install elevators in their homes, similar to the elevators you might find in apartment buildings or shopping malls. These can vary in size. They can be helpful for all types of mobility issues, not just for those that require a wheelchair. Elevators may need regular maintenance.1

Room modifications

All rooms can be modified to ensure items, appliances, and cabinets are at a safe height for wheelchair users. Doors and corridors can also be made wider for people in wheelchairs.2

Roll-in sinks and showers can help people to use bathrooms safely. Roll-in sinks installed at the right height allow wheelchairs to fit underneath them. Roll-in showers allow wheelchair users to roll up to the shower while in a shower chair or roll into a shower chair easily.1

Tips for choosing accessible home modifications

Here is a checklist to help with some considerations when modifying your home:1, 2

  • What modifications do I need to enter or leave the home?
  • What modifications do I need for outdoor areas like the garden or garage?
  • Are all cupboards, appliances, and workspaces at the appropriate height?
  • Are all door handles at the appropriate height and easy to use?
  • Are all light switches, windows, and locks at the appropriate height?
  • Are the doors, hallways, and living spaces wide enough for a wheelchair?
  • How safe is the bathroom? Does the bathroom have a roll-in sink and/or roll-in shower?
  • What modifications do I need to transfer between bed, bath, and wheelchair (for example, transfer lifts)?
  • What modifications do I need to move between floors, such as lifts or elevators?
  • How often will I need to update or maintain the modifications I install so they continue to be safe?

Working with home modification contractors

You may need support from a contractor or company to help install home modifications. When choosing a contractor, the following questions might help with your decisions:3

  • What are the costs (including any tax and labor)?
  • What might be covered by my insurance?
  • What are your estimated start and completion dates for the modifications?
  • What examples do you have of past accessible home projects you have worked on?
  • Do you have references from other clients you can share?

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Written by: Sarah Venugopal | Last reviewed: August 2022

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