Last updated: August 09. 2014 10:00PM - 401 Views
By Kim Reid Contributing columnist

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You like your home and your neighborhood but recently your house hasn’t seemed to work for you.

Why not? Is it because you or a family member now uses a walker or wheelchair? Is it because it is difficult to get into the house from the outside? Or is it because you no longer want or have the strength to climb a flight of stairs to go to bed? If you really want to stay in your house, some changes will make that possible.

Remodeling can be complex, expensive and messy. To remodel a house for someone with limited mobility, poor vision, or hearing problems, you may need to lower kitchen counters or install adjustable-height counters; expand doorways, adapt bathrooms and kitchens; rebuild entryways; or even install stair lifts. Of course, many of these changes will help not only the elderly and disabled but also people of all ages.

Renovating a house requires a plan. Prioritize what is needed now, what may be needed in the future, and what you can afford. Be flexible in your planning and take time to look for products or design ideas. Push a wheelchair or walker through a day’s routine at home to help you identify problem areas. Choose a builder or remodeling contractor who has experience in adapting homes for people with disabilities. The website for The Center for Universal Design at NC State University has a wealth of information concerning building and remodeling homes for people with disabilities, including building plans.

Universal design addresses the scope of accessibility and suggests that making all living elements and spaces in the home accessible to and usable by all people. Universal design requires considering the range of human abilities throughout the lifespan. Creative application of that knowledge results in products, buildings, and facilities that are usable by most people regardless of their age, agility, or physical or sensory abilities.

Other terms that are used in describing housing and features for people with disabilities and others are: Adaptive design means features that can be adjusted in a short time with minimal tools, such as the height of a shower head. Accessible design refers to the use of elements that meet state and local building codes for accessibility by all. An example of accessible design is building doorways wide enough to accommodate the width of a wheel chair. Most accessible features are permanently fixed in place.

When planning your next home improvement, consider “staying put” throughout the life cycle. If you don’t benefit from the improvements, it will become a selling feature when you market your home for resale.

Resource: Lifestyle Housing, NCSU Cooperative Extension

For more information, contact Kim Reid, extension agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at (910) 592-7161.

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