How to Create An Accessible Home

If you are unable to design and build an accessible home from the ground up, you can make an existing home more accessible.

Are you looking for some home modification tips to make an accessible home or improve its disability access? Then you’ve come to the perfect place. Blue Badge Insurance knows accessible living takes thoughtful planning and design so we’ve decided to explore opportunities, room by room.

In this article, we’ve covered making sure that doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs, ramps are available for mobility equipment and all areas of the home are accessible and easy to navigate. We also look at funding options for home modifications.

These simple additions and modifications can help you create the accessible home you deserve…

More accessible homes for Australians

A safe and comfortable home is a basic right for all people. When you’re living with a disability then it’s often the little things that improve the ease of use, comfort and security of your home.  

Plenty of Aussies require some additional assistance around the house. The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that more than 50% of people aged over 65 live with some form of disability. Nearly 30% of people under 65 years also live with disabilities.

Add to the mix Australia’s aging population and our increased lifespan and chances are most homes will, at some stage, need to become more accessible. In other words, accessible housing, or disability housing is a growing need.

If you’re unable to design and build an accessible home from the ground up then you can create a home with disability access using a few home modifications. In this blog post, we show you how this can be achieved…

Woman easily navigates her accessible home with built-in slide-out kitchen cupboards for ease of use

Disability access tips for a more accessible home

Moving from room to room, here are our top home modification tips and ideas to make your home more accessible.

Accessible home entry ideas

Entering the home safely is vital for people living with a disability. Here are some home modification ideas to improve the accessibility of your home’s entry area.

Arriving home
  • Motion sensor lighting. This is a great idea not only at the driveway and/or front door but throughout the house to eliminate the need to access light switches.
  • Directional lighting on pathways. Light the way to the front door by installing lights outside that shine on the path rather than the user – it’s a much more effective home modification.
  • Portable ramps. Many homes have a step or two near the front entryway. Portable ramps help you to navigate these in a wheelchair or mobility scooter and can make life easier for those who are unsteady on their feet (depending on the incline). Ramps are available in a range of lengths and widths.
  • Non-slip mats. If you don’t need a ramp but could use extra stability on steps then non-slip matting is a great idea.
  • Disability-friendly doorbell. Consider an accessible doorbell with a two-way intercom feature so you can communicate with guests if you can’t get there quickly. For anyone who’s hearing impaired, some doorbells offer a flashing strobe light feature. 
  • Remove overhanging branches and plants. These are unnecessary hazards that may impede safe access to the door.
  • Door handle gripper. Get in your front door with greater ease using these contraptions. They’re handy – pardon the pun – all throughout the house.

It’s not just your house that needs accessibility, it’s your car too. Read about transferring from your wheelchair to car and how to choose wheelchair ramps for cars.

A few simple adjustments can help you enjoy your living space more.

Accessible living room ideas

Your living room is where you relax and unwind. A few simple home modifications can help you enjoy your living space that much more and create the accessible home of your dreams.

Lounging about
  • Remove rugs and carpet. These can be difficult to move around on when you’re using a wheelchair or walker. They can easily end up being a tripping hazard for anyone else with balance issues too. If possible, replace the carpet with a hard surface flooring option.
  • Space around furniture. Consider the layout of your room and providing ample space to safely move around furniture. Official guidelines state that a minimum of 2250mm diameter circulation space is ideal for wheelchair manoeuvrability. Definitely one of the most important steps in creating an accessible home.
  • Pressure care cushions. Take the pain out of that prolonged work-from-home, internet cruising and/or Netflix sessions with a pressure cushion. These are designed to suit a range of different furniture surfaces and physical ailments.
  • Power point placement. A minimum of four double power point outlets is recommended in a living room. This removes the need for long trailing power cords, which can be a trip hazard. Power points should ideally be placed 600mm above the floor.
  • Multiple TV antennae outlets. A minimum of two is ideal to avoid long trailing cords. These should also be placed at least 600mm above the floor. 
  • Big button universal remote control. Larger buttons help with vision and dexterity, while universal control lets you operate multiple devices, lights and even power points (see next item). Less fuss, less fumbling.
  • Remote-controlled power points. Basically, these gadgets let you turn electronic equipment like lamps and fans on and off at the power point with the flick of a switch. They can sometimes be rigged to be controlled by a universal remote.

Speaking of remote controlling accessible home modifications, read about assistive technology innovations and accessible smartphone features.

Lower height countertops or kitchen islands allow wheelchair users to comfortably access workspaces.

Accessible home kitchen ideas

A kitchen can be incredibly frustrating if it’s not designed to accommodate your needs. An accessible kitchen, apart from it being the heart of the home, should also provide independence and autonomy.

For example, a kitchen with lower counter tops and a sink makes it easier for a person using a wheelchair to prep meals or wash dishes. Here are our kitchen tips for your accessible home:

Breakfast, lunch and supper!
  • Slip-resistant flooring. A kitchen with slip-resistant flooring and rounded edges on counter tops helps reduce the risk of falls and injuries. This can be especially important for anyone with limited mobility or visual impairment.
  • Lower-height counter tops or kitchen island. This allows wheelchair users to comfortably access workspaces. Ideally, at least one kitchen workspace should allow you to slide your knees under the bench to comfortably chop and prepare food. Some kitchen systems even offer height-adjustable benchtops and islands to help create the ideal accessible home.
  • Height adjustable cupboards and shelves. This option makes cabinetry flexible to suit the needs of a range of users. Though you may need child locks for any little ones!
  • Well-spaced appliances. Position the stove top close to the sink so it’s easy to strain things like pasta or rice. Similarly, the oven should be located close to an accessible benchtop so that dangerously hot items won’t need to be carried too far.  
  • Kettle tipper. Make a cup of tea more safely with a kettle tipper. Pouring boiling water from a kettle can be challenging, strenuous and even dangerous for people with reduced physical strength or poor grip. Kettle tippers are clever kitchen aids that make making a hot cuppa tea or coffee easier.
  • Kitchen aids. One of the elements of creating an accessible home is the range of kitchen aids you may want to invest in. From one-handed can openers to angled knives, vegetable peelers, jar openers, and chopping boards, there are plenty of disability-friendly kitchen utensils on the market.
  • Reaching aid. Grab items around the kitchen (and indeed anywhere in the house) with greater ease using a reaching/grabbing aid.
A woman works from her accessible bedroom on a desk designed for disability access

Accessible home bedroom ideas

The bedroom is where we go to rest and retreat from the world. To create an accessible home where you feel as safe and secure in your bedroom as possible, try these home modification tricks.

Sweet dreaming
  • Adjustable bed. These allow you to adjust the height and/or backrest elevation of your bed. They are also available in double bed options to stay cosy with your loved one. Each side is independently adjustable.
  • Drop-down bed rail. For added security, while you’re dreaming sweetly, a bed rail can help keep you safe and sound.
  • Overbed lifting aid. Get in and out of bed with greater ease and safety with the inclusion of a lifting aid.
  • Memory foam mattress. Most important, these can help greatly with stiff, painful joints. Doing a little reading before catching your ZZ’s? You might want to take a look at treatment advances for Motor Neurone Disease – one of our many Blue Badge blog articles.
  • Personal alarm. From floor and bed mats with sensors to wearable pendants, personal alarm systems send for help should you fall without another home occupant noticing.
Creating a bathroom with disability access requires thoughtful planning and design.

Accessible bathroom ideas

With wet, slippery and hard surfaces, the bathroom can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Here are some home modification ideas to make it safer and ensure disability access.

Fresh and clean
  • Non-slip mats. These can be placed on the floor, in the shower and in the bath. They help to make wet and slippery surfaces safer.
  • Toilet safety frame. For an accessible home bathroom consider a safety frame. That way, when nature calls, it’ll make things that much easier and more comfortable.
  • Grab rails. These are a good idea throughout your house but especially in the bathroom where slipping is more likely.
  • Shower stools. These help you sit comfortably in the shower so you can get clean while seated. Choose a heavy-duty stool with side rails for increased stability. There are plenty of portable ones too, to be used for greater safety when travelling and staying in accommodation. If you’re looking at pet friendly accessible accommodation then you might also want to read our steps to flying with a service, guide or Assistance Dog.
  • Long arm shower aid. Clean yourself without having to bend and contort in the shower, using a device like a long-handled toe washer. This is a great aid to aid disability access.

Funding support for an accessible home

If your home requires modifications and products to make it more suitable to your needs, you may be able to access funding.

There are several programs that fund home equipment. Here are a few:

  • My Aged Care. Home care packages for seniors over 65 years with no NDIS access fund a range of items including home modifications for independent mobility.
  • National and state-based funding. Government supports that can help improve the accessibility of your home.
  • NDIS Home Modifications. This program provides assistance when changes are required to the structure, layout, and fittings of your home. These changes are designed to help you access your home and move around safely.
  • NDIS Assistive Technology. This program funds equipment you may need to help you with everyday tasks around the home.

If you’re wondering about NDIS eligibility then read about steps to access the NDIS from an NDIS guru. Also watch this video explain how the NDIS provides funding for people with disabilities:

Protect yourself at home – and your equipment, too

Creating an accessible home can be simple with just a few additions and modifications. But even with support in place, accidental damage can happen to your wheelchair or mobility scooter.

Having our wheelchair insurance or mobility scooter insurance can help cover the cost of damage as well as replacement for theft. We also offer up to 25% off disability car insurance and car insurance for wheelchair-accessible vehicles and disability-converted cars.

As Australia’s first disability equipment insurance specialists, Blue Badge Insurance is always a call away and you can access your policy any time of day online.

Want to know more? Get on the phone with us today, on 1300 304 802 and we’ll explain how it works. Or simply click below to start your quote.

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