5 dealbreakers if you’re on the hunt for an accessible home

by | May 1, 2024 | Home and Living

Buying a home is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make. There are many factors to weigh when deciding which one to put an offer on. If you or a loved one has mobility or cognitive limitations, there are even more things to consider. Here are five, and some potential fixes if your would-be dream home is missing some key elements.

Steep exterior steps
If someone with mobility issues can’t even make it inside the front door, that’s a major dealbreaker. The treads on any exterior stairway should be of uniform height and depth to avoid a tripping hazard, and secure railings should be on both sides of the stairway.

Potential fix: Is there an accessible side entrance that someone could use? If not, see if it is possible to install a ramp leading to the front door or an outdoor lift to get a walker or wheelchair safely to the entrance.

No washroom on the main floor
If climbing the stairs is a challenge, having a bathroom on the main floor will make the home safer and more comfortable for residents and guests alike.

Potential fix: If there isn’t one already, is there room to add a small bathroom on the main floor? To keep costs down, locate it below a bathroom on the upper floor so you can connect to existing water and drain lines.

Multiple levels on the ground floor
Some home designs include two or three stairs to reach an elevated or sunken level off the main floor. These can be tripping hazards, particularly for someone with limited vision or mobility.

Potential fix: Would it be cost-effective to raise a sunken area to match the height of the main level? For short runs of interior stairs, consider whether there is space to install a portable or permanent ramp, or a chair lift.

No railings on stairways
Ideally, each stairway should have railings running along both sides. This helps people with balance problems or limited use of an arm or hand to gain a stable footing as they go up or down.

Potential fix: Provided that the stairway is wide enough, installing railings on both sides of the entire length of the stairs is a relatively simple and low-cost renovation.

No accessible bathing options
Many bathrooms have only a bathtub for bathing and showering. The problem with that is the height of the side of a tub can be a huge barrier for some people to step over.

Potential fix: Adding grab bars will provide extra hand support for stepping in and out of the tub. If you have the budget for renovating, you can install a curbless shower stall (that is, one that doesn’t have a lip that you have to step over). Installing a walk-in tub, one that has a water-tight door and a seat, is also an option.

If you or a family member needs an accessible home, an occupational therapist can help you determine which renovations and workarounds can make a home suitable for all. Find more information about licensed occupational therapists at coto.org/ot

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