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Home Modifications

Home accessibility modifications, also called environmental accessibility modifications, are physical changes made in the home to accommodate a disability or mobility restriction. They improve comfort and ease-of-use navigation through one's own home.

From motion sensor lights to lever handles, from portable ramps to widened doorways, there are a broad range of home modifications that make life easier. Many modifications are simple to install and are available at low- or no-cost. Depending upon personal need, some home modifications may require the services of a professional contractor or the redesign of the home.

Home accessibility modifications can make a home more visitable too. People are able to welcome friends and family, who use wheelchairs or walkers or may have trouble navigating steps, into their homes. This simply makes life more rich. Another added plus, you can deduct certain home modifications from your taxes.

And for anyone looking to build a home, they may want to consider incorporating universal design features. These are accessible and barrier-free features such a wide doorways, which are usable by all people - regardless of age, size and disability status.

Learn more: Check out the Home Safety 101 infographic for tips to make your home safer and more accessible. Visit the Visitability website from the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) for information and resources for improving visitablity in your home.

Types of Home Modifications

Home layout and design, inside and out:

  • No-step entries and layout
  • Doorways and halls wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers
  • Even floors, pavements and surfaces
  • Doorways without thresholds
  • Nonslip flooring

Lighting:

  • Natural daylight and lighting that supports daily activities
  • Night lights
  • Switches operated by voice, touch or motion
  • Security lighting
  • Outdoor lighting

Fixtures:

  • Lever door handles that are easier to open
  • Pull handles for cabinets
  • Faucet levers that don’t require turning
  • Grab bars in bathrooms and where stability is needed
  • Bed rails
  • Handrails on both sides of steps and stairs
  • Showers that includes a stable seat or shower chair

Furnishings and decor:

  • Furniture arrangements that allow easy passage
  • No throw rugs
  • Cords and wires that are contained and out of traffic areas
  • Widened doorways

Check out the Make Room For More Accessibility infographic for home modifications ideas, room by room. 

Learn more: The AARP HomeFit Guide has cost-saving home accessibility modification tips and ideas.

Livable Spaces

Home modifications don’t have to be expensive to be effective. A simple change can make a big difference in safety and livability.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Remove clutter and hazards like small throw rugs to prevent tripping and slipping
  • Remove loose stair runners and attach non-slip grips
  • Move furniture to allow for easy passage
  • Make sure lighting is bright enough
  • Store food and household items in places for easy access
  • Keep the phone where it can be answered easily
  • Check all railings on walkways and stairs

Smart Home Technology

There are technologies, devices and systems available that can improve an individual's living space and quality of life. These items can help people improve their control over how their house operates, increase accessibility and safety and reduce energy consumption.

Smart home technology has four key benefits:

  1. Safety: Security systems, such as alarms and cameras can create a safer and more secure environment.
  2. Accessibility: Certain smart devices can be activated and operated using voice commands. Through the use of a smart home hub, many appliances and devices throughout the house can be used seamlessly.
  3. Energy Efficient: Some smart appliances such as lights and thermostats can be set to turn on or off automatically or as scheduled, reducing the amount of electricity consumed.
  4. Control: Many smart home devices are controlled by a smartphone or smart home hub. These devices use apps and/or a wireless Internet connection to operate. For example: An individual can tap a button on an app to open the garage doors to their home from their car.

In Search of Professional Guidance?

Here are some options:

  • Occupational Therapist (OT) can advise on personal living and safety needs now and in the future. Visit the 2-1-1 website to find a local Occupational Therapist.
  • Remodelers should be specifically trained to create barrier-free homes. To find a remodeler who are Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) to build home accessibility modifications, visit the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) website.

Financial Options for Home Modifications


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