Q: We are considering buying a house with an attached apartment for my mother, who uses a wheelchair. We’ve chosen this house because the apartment’s hallways and doorways are extra wide and the living areas (including the bathroom) are larger than others we’ve seen. We would like to make sure the apartment is fully accessible to her, but we are on a limited budget and plan to do a large remodel now, with smaller changes over the next several months. What are the most important things we should remodel for accessibility before she moves in?
A: Another factor to consider prior to choosing your mother’s new home is whether the apartment is on ground floor and is accessible by wheelchair from the curb to the front door. You mentioned that the doorways and hallways inside the home are wider than others you’ve seen, but also make sure that the front door and connecting entryway also have enough width to be accessible to and from the apartment.
When the decision is complete and you are considering making the first modifications, I would focus on doors, windows, the bathroom and the kitchen area. Sliding doors that disappear into the walls are better than swing doors. This allows more manuvering space when entering and leaving a room. Also, this type of door modification is easier to accomplish than widening hallways. Similarly, windows should be easy to operate. Windows that slide horizontally are preferred over windows that open vertically. Make sure that the bathroom is modified with the correct sink height for wheelchair accessibility and has easy access to the shower and toilet. In the kitchen, make sure that below-counter kitchen cabinets have adjustable shelving. Lastly, consider installing lights that are motion sensitive.