Modifying Tips for a Wheelchair Accessible Home

    Posted by Jonathan Neugebauer on June 1, 2014 12:00 PM

    Modifying Tips for a Wheelchair Accessible Home

    If you or one of your loved ones is a wheelchair user, then you may be well aware of the adjustments that are necessary in order to accommodate this new lifestyle. Modifying a home to be more accessible is one of the first changes that you will under go when adapting to a wheelchair in your home. Designing all the necessary wheelchair accommodations for a new home can be a process, it is important to prioritize your needs to avoid over designing.  The permanence and quality of modifications depends on your needs, estimated time spent in the home, available finances, and whether the your residence is being rented or owned. The following ADA specific guidelines can help the modification process go more smoothly.

    Home Entrance

    Wheelchair door

    The home entrance is often the first and most important modification to be made. If the front entrance of the home has steps leading to the front door a ramp will be required. Here are a few key specifications to keep in mind when designing your personal ramp.

    • 36 to 48” wide pathway depending on chair dimensions
    • 12” of ramp for each 1” of vertical rise
    • Slip resistant surface (Non-slip strips, indoor/outdoor carpet, sand paint)
    • Threshold edge height of ¼” or less

    If the front entrance area does not offer enough space for an ADA approved ramp, a vertical lift or elevator can be installed. This is a pricey alternative, so be sure to evaluate all entrances to the house (side door, garage, back door) for possibilities of ramp use.


    The standard doorway measures 32” across, although many wheelchairs can negotiate this width it requires a degree of precision. A modified doorway normally spanning 36”, offers a more comfortable distance for you to navigate through. If remodeling each doorway is not a financial option consider these alternatives to increase your standard door width.

    • Offset, Z-shaped hinges
    • Remove frame on the door
    • Remove the door itself
    • Reverse the swing of the door

    Once the doorway has been adjusted to fit your needs, it is important to consider the effectiveness of the door itself. Door knobs should be replaced with handles to allow the user the ability to easily close doors behind them. Door handles should also be lowered to a height of 36” from the floor. These modifications to frequently used doorways will provide ease of use and independence for you.


    Accessible bathroom accommodations are vital for the independence of people with disabilities and the elderly. To begin, a wide enough doorway must be installed to accommodate the chair turning from a hallway entrance. Consider these following modifications to add ease and accessibility to your household’s bathroom:

    • Roll-in shower with handheld shower head and an approximate area of 5’ by 5’ with wall mounted grab bars
    • A 34” lowered suspended sink  to offer knee clearance
    • 2’ to 3’ of transfer space on either side of toilet
    • Non slip surfaces to compensate moisture ( rubber mats, anti-slip strips, ceramic floors with anti-slip finishes)

    To ensure that you can safely use the bathroom evaluate your bathroom to see what modifications need to be made. You may require your own bathroom specifications depending on routines and chair dimensions.

    To promote independent living for your loved ones or yourself, an accessible living space must be available. Using these keys tips as well as understanding your everyday needs, will help to create a personalized and accommodating home. Consider consulting with other wheelchair users to receive referrals for contractors as well as everyday tips. For more information on specific home modification guidelines visit the official ADA website here.

    Photo credit 1: Jeremy via photopin cc

    Photo credit 2: panshipanshi via photopin cc

    Photo credit 3: Sascha Kohlmann via photopin cc

    Photo credit 4: roujo via photopin cc

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