Home Modifications: Top 4 Barriers for People with Disabilities

Armando Carillo Articles

When contemplating home modifications for seniors, or home modifications for disabled people, the TOP 4 accessibility barriers faced are 1) the entrances and exits, 2) levels and stairs, 3) bathrooms and 4) physical transfers. Each barrier is described below and home accessibility solutions are recommended to help overcome each one. Finding the right mobility solution will depend on one’s personal needs and situation.

1. Accessibility Barriers:  Entrances and Exits to a Home

The main, street-facing door is not always the most used entry/exit point to a home. Often times, it’s a secondary entrance, like the door attached to a garage or a side door attached to a driveway. Apartment homes or condos add a multitude of other obstacles. For homes, here are a few solutions to make entering/exiting a home easier.

Wheelchair/Scooter Ramp

Home modification accessibility barrier solution: An older woman helps her husband on a wheelchair down a modular ramp installed by Accessible Systems at the entryway to their Colorado home

A wheelchair ramp, also called a modular ramp, can make entering/exiting a home easy for anyone on wheels. The gradual incline of the ramp can also help anyone that may be able to walk, albeit independently or with the use of a walker or cane, but may have difficulty climbing stairs. The rails along the way provide extra support.

Threshold Ramp

Home modification accessibility barrier solution: Threshold wheelchair ramp installed

A threshold ramp is ideal for doorways with no steps, but perhaps there is a few inches differential, or rise, from the exterior ground  to the floor of the entryway. This rise can be hard to overcome for someone in a wheelchair or scooter.

Outdoor Wheelchair Lift

Home modification accessibility barrier solution: Outdoor wheelchair lift, vertical platform lift custom installed to the deck entryway into a home

A wheelchair lift (also called a vertical platform lift or VPL) is a great solution for entryways with a deck or when there is not enough yard/lawn to accommodate a wheelchair ramp.

2. Accessibility Barriers: Levels and Stairs

Levels refers to the interior floors of a home. Multi-level homes present many challenges for people that lack, or have no mobility. Navigating from the main level, to the basement, and then perhaps the upper level can be a daunting, if not impossible, task. Here are some home modifications that can overcome these barriers.

Stair Lift

Home modification for disabled accessibility barrier solution: A senior woman sits on a Bruno custom curved stairlift in her Colorado home

Stair lifts come ins a variety of models, and can be installed snug against the wall along staircases. Shown in the picture is a curved stair lift by Bruno.

Interior Home Elevator

Home modification for disabled: A young handicap boy waves and smiles as he ascends to the upper level of his home in an interior elevator

Home modification for disabled accessibility barrier solution: Thru-the-floor home elevator by Wessex installed in a home and out-of-view

Interior home elevators are becoming more affordable and widely adopted. There are various models and some, like the through-the-floor elevator in the picture above, don’t require a major home modification or construction. The beauty of this type of elevator, is that it hides out-of-view.

3. Accessibility Barriers: Bathrooms

There is typically not much room in most bathrooms, so navigating within such a confined space can be challenging, especially for someone in a wheelchair or any other medical device on wheels. For those that require the assistance of a professional caregiver or family member, the space becomes even tighter when two people have to wiggle around it to make ends meet.

Roll-in Shower

Home modification for disabled accessibility barrier solution: Roll-in shower for people in a wheelchair
A roll-in shower has a floor that is flush with the remaining floor of a bathroom. There no lip or raising to step over. This allows easy entry for anyone in a wheelchair. This is a more expensive home modification that is typically one part of a grander bathroom remodel. The silver grab bars shown, however, are way more affordable and can be a viable alternative. These provide gripping points to prevent slips and falls.

Walk-in Tub

Home modification for disabled accessibility barrier solution: A walk-in tub in a home for those that are mobility challenged
The benefits of a walk-in tub are two-fold. 1) They allow for easy entry/exit for people that may have troubles stepping over the height for a traditional bath tub and 2) provide a therapeutic escape thanks to the built-in jets. Luxury meets safety, here.

4. Accessibility Barriers: Transfers

A transfer is the act of physically transferring from a bed to a wheelchair chair, getting on/off the toilet, in and out of a shower or tub, and moving from room-to-room, or between levels in a home.

SureHands Ceiling Lift and

A woman in a wheelchair about to be hoisted up and transferred to her bed by a SureHands ceiling lift installed in her bedroom
A SureHands ceiling lift can help caregivers or family members with transfers, and sometimes, they grant the user complete freedom and independence since it comes with a remote control.

Home modification for disabled accessibility barrier solution: A close up photo of the track system of a SureHands ceiling lift installed in a medical office
The lift glides along specialized tracks attached to the ceiling. These tracks can connect a bed in a bedroom to the toilet and bathing are of a bathroom. The tracks pivot to allow changes in direction as well.

Home modification for disabled accessibility barrier solution: Close up of the patented BODY SUPPORT feature of the SureHands ceiling lift
Probably the most impactful feature of a SureHands ceiling lift is its Body Support system. Just how the arms of a caregiver can hoist up a patient, this system also hugs a user during a lift. The leg supports provide extra comfort. This is a great alternative for those that need to be lifted in a more erect position, contrary to the slouch and discomfort of a traditional sling.

In the end, home modifications work for people differently. It comes down individual needs and of course cost. These solutions should at least provide a solid foundation of understanding to help seniors, the handicap and disabled, and anyone limited with mobility, to overcome barriers of a home.