Home Organization for Families with Disabilities
Your family needs a place to live that has all the comforts of home, but also the conveniences of a barrier-free lifestyle for those in need of accommodation. Whether your family member is in a wheelchair or has a vision or hearing impairment, there are changes you can make at home to accommodate your loved one’s disability and help them become more independent. These are tips for families with disabilities.
Organization for Wheelchair Accessibility
According to Easter Seals, “An accessible house or dwelling is equipped with specific features to accommodate people with permanent disabilities or declining physical abilities.” For wheelchair users, accommodations are necessary to help them move freely around the home. Consider making the flooring in your home level, which will allow the wheelchair to roll without hindrances. It may also be necessary to widen doorways for easy access to each room.
In the kitchen, look for appliances with controls in the front so they’re easy to reach. Lower the wall oven so the person in the wheelchair can comfortably operate it, and look for a side-by-side refrigerator so all family members can access both the refrigerator and the freezer. Have bi-level countertops in the kitchen and consider counters with pull-out cutting boards for easy accessibility.>
Bathrooms require a five-foot clearance to allow wheelchair users to make a 360-degree turn. Install non-slip floors and grab bars. Consider a roll-in shower, a hand-held shower head and/or a fold-down shower seat. Change the height of shelves and counters, install faucets with a lever as a handle, and make sure there’s a tilted mirror accessible in the bathroom. Easter Seals also recommends a telephone in the bathroom so the wheelchair user can call for help if needed.
Organization for the Hearing Impaired
Hearing impairment impacts people of all ages, but it has a significant impact on the aging population. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “There is a strong relationship between age and reported hearing loss: 18 percent of American adults 45-64 years old, 30 percent of adults 65-74 years old, and 47 percent of adults 75 years old or older have a hearing loss.”
People who have hearing disabilities rely heavily on their other senses to function at home. If you’re looking for a home, or modifying an existing home, consider an open floor plan. This allows the person with the hearing disability to more easily see what’s going on in the rest of the house. Look through your storage unit to see if you have additional lighting options, like floor or table lamps, which will minimize glare from overhead lights.
Some people with hearing impairment are able to hear some things, especially with the assistance of devices like a hearing aid. However, background noise can muffle what they’re trying to focus on. To help improve the acoustics in your home, install carpet so sounds don’t echo, close doors to reduce background noise, and modify chairs and tables by attaching tennis balls or felt cushions on the legs so they don’t make noise when they slide across the floor.
Organization for the Vision Impaired
Allowing the other senses to operate without distraction is also important when adapting a home for the vision impaired. While someone may be considered legally blind, they may still be able to see fluctuations in light and shapes. Lighting is a great way to help them use their vision efficiently.
According to FamilyConnect, “Most children with low vision prefer natural light, the kind that comes in through windows. However, for some children, especially those with albinism, aniridia, or other conditions that cause photophobia, too much light can cause problems. If you see your child squinting in the presence of light, consider getting adjustable window coverings — opaque or glare-reducing shades that can be lowered from the top or raised from the bottom, blinds, or shutters — so you can control how much light comes into a room.”
Reduce the amount of clutter in your home so everyone can move freely without bumping into anything. If you have several pieces that you like, but you can’t keep them out at the same time, rotate them in and out of a storage unit as needed or desired.
You can also use texture to help differentiate between rooms. Install non-slip tile in bathrooms or carpet in the bedrooms so a person who is vision impaired can easily feel the difference to identify his or her current location in the home.
Making your home accessible for people with disabilities doesn’t require a full remodeling job. In many instances, you may have the items you need in off-site storage. Small changes make a big difference for people with disabilities so they can fully function and feel at home.
 “Classroom Accommodations for Students with a Hearing Impairment,” The University of South Dakota Center for Disabilities, http://www.usd.edu/medical-school/center-for-disabilities/upload/HI-Class-Accommodations.pdf
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