Home Safety

Home Safety Measures: Tips to Create a Handicap-Accessible Home

Written by Anthony Emecheta

The home should be the place where we feel the most secure. Unfortunately, most homes are not designed with people living with disabilities in mind. According to a publication by the United States Census Bureau, Black adults have a higher risk of disability than non-Hispanic White adults because of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis.

So, even when people are born abled, disabilities may happen later in life necessitating the modification of homes to make it safer for them. Home modifications to make it more handicap accessible don’t have to be expensive. This article will give you tips to pull it off at a minimum budget.

How to make homes safer for wheelchair users

Age and accidents causing spinal injuries can lead to the loss of mobility and confine a previously abled person to a wheelchair. Stroke is another common disease that can lead to partial paralysis. Also, the US Department of Health and Human Services said that non-Hispanic Blacks are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to non-Hispanic Whites. Sadly, diabetic foot ulcer often leads to amputation. Here is how to modify the home to make it more accessible to those in a wheelchair.

Stair ramps

If your building has a staircase leading into the house, installing a ramp can make it easier for those in a wheelchair to easily navigate in and out. There are portable ramps that you can carry around which will also make it easier for you to have access to public buildings with stairs.

Floor mats

Polished and slippery floors are harder to navigate and even risky for those on wheelchairs or those with artificial limbs or clutches. A fluid spill on a slippery floor can be a recipe for home accidents. Instead of taking the more expensive route of replacing your floor with hardwood or textured vinyl, consider the more affordable option of covering the slippery areas with textured rugs or mats.

Ensure you choose the very low-pile rugs or mats over the thick ones. Also, consider holding the edges of the rug firmly down using rug tapes to avoid tripping accidents or the obstruction of wheelchair movement.

Rearrange furniture

If you have someone in a wheelchair or someone who uses clutches at home, consider rearranging your furniture setup to make more room for easier navigation. Declutter spaces around the house and consider adding shelves so that much of the ground space can be freed up.

Handrails or grab bars

While it is possible to install mats in the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and other parts of the home, the same cannot be said about wet areas like bathrooms and toilets. The best option for these locations is to install handrails or grab bars by the walls of the shower. However, this is most suitable for those who can still stand on one or both legs. A shower chair is a good accessory to have for those who cannot stand at all.

How to make homes safe for people with visual impairment

Another common form of disability that is prevalent among Black people is visual impairment. The CDC said that Black people have a higher risk of vision loss compared to White people. This has been proven through different studies.

One such study by the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai discovered that Black patients are six times more at risk of advanced vision loss after primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) diagnosis compared to White patients. Scientists blamed this on genetic and physiologic differences. Here are tips to make your home safer for those with visual impairments.

Improve home lighting

Making the home as bright as possible can assist those with visual impairment from bumping into objects or trip and fall accidents. Install brighter bulbs in areas that are prone to darkness like staircases. Try different types of lighting including fluorescent bulbs and incandescent bulbs and determine the one that works best for the person with visual impairment.

Use color codes

Brighter colors are easier to see. Therefore, developing a color code can help those with visual impairment to easily navigate the home. For example, you can paint or mask areas with high hazard risks with red tape signaling to the person with visual impairment that they need extra caution when around those areas.

Touch and texture communication

For those who have completely lost their sight, applying embossed letter stickers that spell out what they are touching can help them to easily navigate the home. For example, labeling things like refrigerators, switches, and so on can make them easier to identify.

Use of smart glasses

Thanks to technological advances, there are now smart glasses like the Envision Glasses that help people with visual impairments or low vision to independently navigate through their environment. The glasses capture visual information in the environment and convert it to speech so that the person with visual impairment can understand what is happening around them.

Smart home gadgets like smart locks, smart blinds, voice-activated devices, and automatic doors were all created in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. Where resources allow, install as many of them as you can to make your home more accessible and safer for the handicapped.

The key consideration when trying to enhance home safety for those with disabilities is to prioritize their quality of life. The elements added to the home should promote independence and self-sufficiency, thereby enabling them to independently navigate their living space with confidence.

For more reading

https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2023/07/disparities-in-disabilities.html

https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/diabetes-and-african-americans

https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/vehss/estimates/vision-loss-prevalence.html

https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/2022/black-patients-found-six-times-more-likely-to-have-advanced-vision-loss-after-glaucoma-diagnosis-than-white-patients

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9312450

https://www.letsenvision.com/glasses/home

https://www.ada.gov/law-and-regs/design-standards/2010-stds/

About the author

Anthony Emecheta

Anthony Emecheta holds a master’s degree in microbiology. He is a passionate educator and particularly an advocate of racial equality. He strongly believes the world will be a better place if we all see ourselves as humans first before anything else.

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