People with disabilities often want a lot of the same things other house hunters are searching for—homes in safe neighborhoods, near good schools, and with all the amenities that make life pleasant. However, they also need specific home features that enable them to live independently.
It’s not easy finding a house that checks every box, especially if you’re not quite sure what to look for. Rather than heading into home buying full of uncertainty, use these tips from The Renovation Directory to inform your accessible house hunt.
The 5 Most Critical Features in an Accessible Home
There’s no tried-and-true recipe for accessibility at home. Disabilities are diverse, and so are the needs of the people who live with them. However, there are some features that are almost universally found in accessible homes.
- No stairs: Accessible homes don’t necessarily need to be single-level, but multi-story homes should have a residential elevator. There also needs to be at least one main entrance with no steps.
- No thresholds: Whether it’s a step-free entrance, flush doorway thresholds, or consistent flooring throughout the home, keeping floors level eliminates barriers for people with physical disabilities and reduces fall risk for older adults.
- Space to navigate: In addition to wide doorways and hallways, 1-800-Wheelchair.com explains people with disabilities benefit from rooms that have plenty of floor space for moving and turning. This is especially true for mobility device users.
- Accessible electrical fixtures: Electrical outlets at ground level aren’t comfortable for anyone, but especially not people with physical disabilities. Raising electrical outlets and lowering switches ensures everyone can reach them, while replacing toggle light switches with rocker switches accommodates people with dexterity limitations.
- Low-maintenance living: Unless household help is in the budget, stay away from fixer-uppers and homes with expansive grounds. Newer single-family homes, condos, and townhouses are all great picks for people in search of a low-maintenance home.
More Helpful Features for Accessible Living
These features are great for accessibility, too, but they can be harder to find in a turnkey home. Many of these upgrades are easy enough to DIY, but if you prefer, hire a professional to take them on.
- Wood floors: Wood floors offer the ultimate balance between durability and cushion. Safer and sturdier than carpet yet softer than tile or vinyl, hardwood is an excellent choice for accessible and age-friendly living.
- Accessible appliances: Many older appliances have their controls on the rear panel or heavy doors that drop down, but these pose challenges for people with disabilities. While outfitting a kitchen with new appliances isn’t cheap, accessible appliances make the kitchen a safer, more empowering place for people with disabilities.
- Lever handles: Knobs are common on doors and cabinetry, but they’re surprisingly hard to operate. Lever door handles, cabinet pulls, and faucets that can be operated single-handed or touchless offer a more accessible solution.
- Grab bars: Grab bars are another simple hardware upgrade, but this project can be more complicated than it seems at first glance. If your bathroom doesn’t have studs in the right places, you’ll need to use wall anchors to mount grab bars. If you’re concerned about an institutional look, choose a finish that matches your bathroom and install grab bars in places where they blend in. For example, a grab bar can double as a towel bar in the shower or even as a toilet paper holder.
Last Minute Details
It’s all too easy to get caught up in house hunting, making renovations, and arranging your move, and forget about more boring details that are nonetheless important. Remember to arrange for your utilities in the new location, and update your address with the powers that be.
Moving.com notes that should include various government organizations and businesses you use, any subscription services, and you’ll need new personal identification cards with your updated address. You’ll also need to remind your workplace you’re moving, and if you’re a business owner in a new state, update your LLC.
While everyone’s needs are different, we hope this guide offers a helpful starting place for your accessible house hunt. Now that you understand what to look for in an accessible home, you can start compiling your own list of accessible housing must-haves. And when you find the right house to turn into the home of your dreams, The Renovation Directory can help you find the right professional to make any appropriate upgrades.
Written by: Patrick Young