There was a time when finding a home with accommodations for disabilities meant an exhaustive search, limited options, and costly additions. The good news is that the word has gotten out: Many of the features that make a house more accessible for those with wheelchairs, sight limitations, or mobility restrictions are just plain more comfortable for most buyers, making certain accessible features more common. There has also been a surge in public interest around making the world more welcoming to people of differing identities, abilities, backgrounds, and cultures.
Altogether, this means residences with accessible features are more common than they used to be and often don’t come with as many additional costs. In your house hunt, consider the following details to make sure your new home can accommodate your needs.
Just Say No to Stairs
Whether you’ll be steering a wheelchair or pushing a stroller, you’ll find that a ramp to the front door makes a home much more accessible. A common design choice for more roller-friendly homes puts the steps at the front of the entrance and a low-slope ramp approaching from the driveway side. Look for either a single-story ranch-style home or, if a home has multiple stories, one with a full bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor. Watch out for single steps and uneven floor plans. While many homes are built with basements, these might not be the best for homeowners with disabilities that make stairs a challenge. Basements often house important utility areas and even laundry rooms, so look for a place with these items in an easily accessed garage or room.
Look for Spacious Floorplans
If you or a loved one have spent any time in a wheelchair, you’ve probably approached a door and had that “Will it fit?” moment, possibly followed by some feats of physics-defying chair squishing. The Americans with Disabilities Act specifies a wheelchair-friendly doorway should be at least 32 inches wide with 36 inches of clearance on each side. Furthermore, focus on homes with wide hallways and lots of space to move around in the kitchens and bathrooms. Avoid tight corners and small alcoves.
Make Sure You Can Reach What You Need
Check that the important components of the house have been installed at reachable heights. Look at the placement of outlets, light switches, closet rods, countertops, appliances, faucets, toilets, tubs, and knobs. Another useful feature to look for is the inclusion of lever handles instead of round doorknobs and faucet handles. Similarly, kitchen and bathroom cabinets with pulls may be easier to work with than those with small knobs or no hardware at all.
Ask the Professionals
When looking for a home, make sure your realtor knows you prioritize accessibility. They can help you find options that fit your needs as well as decide if some features can be affordably added post-sale. When it comes time to move, eliminate much of the stress of moving by hiring a professional moving company that understands the needs of disabled clientele.
The process of buying a home might have you reverting to that old nail-biting habit, but some due diligence and careful planning can help alleviate stress. Spend some time researching the market, find a knowledgeable realtor and narrow down your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” This can make all the difference in keeping you cool, calm, and collected as you navigate this exciting change.
Many thanks to Patrick Young of AbleUsa for contributing this article.