Accessibility Is the Key to Independence in Your Home
by Patrick Young


Much is often made of providing accessibility in public places, but what about your own home? Instead of hindering your lifestyle, your home should be a sanctuary promoting your independence. While in the past that often meant an “institutional” appearance, current trends allow homeowners to enjoy aesthetically appealing modifications. Whether looking to modify an existing home or purchase a new one, options abound.


Before you can decide on the exact modifications for your home, you should take an inventory of your personal needs. Is entering your home cumbersome? Do you have particular tasks, such as food preparation or bathing, that are especially difficult? Consider using an accessible home design checklist to help narrow down your personal criteria. 


Modify an Existing Home


Think outside the box

Modifying an existing home can sound challenging, but there are many simple, inexpensive alterations you can make to improve home accessibility. For instance, many homeowners have issues with doors and entryways. A doorway space of 32 inches or more better accommodates many situations, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and other assistive devices. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to rip out existing frames and revamp every room entry.  One suggestion is to simply remove doors or install swing-away hinges to widen the access point. Installing a wheelchair ramp can improve access to the main entry of the home (the national average cost for installing a ramp is $1,500 – $3,250). Throughout your home, lever-style handles instead of traditional, round door knobs can be a boon to those with limited dexterity or mobility concerns.


Many homeowners opt to change from split-floor living spaces to single level areas on the ground floor. In this case, you will want a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen area on the main level, and potentially a laundry area. If your home doesn’t lend itself well to that change, one clever solution is to make room divisions with curtains, providing privacy as needed. 


For easier entrance to bathrooms, rehang doors to reverse the direction they open, out of the room instead of into it. Bathroom use can be made easier with taller toilets and grab bars, and note that grab bars are now available in colors to match your bathroom tile. If your budget allows, HGTV recommends a toilet and bidet combination for utmost accessibility.   


Advanced ideas

If you’re ready to make a more substantial investment in your home’s accessibility, there are many options available. For instance, you may want to gut your bathroom and replace all the tile with a non-slip version. Bathtubs can be replaced with threshold-free showers, and This Old House suggests altering the existing vanity to accommodate a wheelchair. Kitchens can be modified with varied countertop heights and some experts suggest installing kitchen appliances suited to your particular needs, such as elevated dishwashers and microwave drawers. Your home entryway can be graded for aesthetically pleasing, step-free access, and you can install automated entry for the front door.


Finding an Accessible Home


There are many reasons people decide to purchase an accessible home. Your home might not lend itself well to the modifications you want. Perhaps it’s time for an adjustment in your life, such as following an empty nest or job change. Or, maybe you simply prefer not to live with construction and contractors in your home. One of the best ways to find an appropriate home is by searching online. There are easy ways to filter an online search for homes in your area that are accessible. Note the average sale price for homes in San Clemente is $1.13M. From there, you can make a list of your personal criteria and compare available homes with your needs and desires. 


Independence Your Way


Your home should promote, and not inhibit, your independence. Making modifications can be inexpensive and attractive. If your situation calls for a major change, find a new home that better suits your needs. You can enjoy more freedom in your home with smart, accessible designs.