Make your home wheelchair accessible

Make living at home easier for seniors

By Allan Britnell


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Face it, we’re not getting any younger. In fact, there are about four million Canadians aged 65 or older. In another 20 years, that number is projected to be almost double. Along with the wisdom of experience and the free time of retirement that a lifetime of working bestows, there are some unwanted side effects: hearing and eyesight fade, joints ache and everyday tasks we once took for granted become painful and potentially dangerous. But although we’re aging, we’re also living longer and healthier lives. Here we’ve compiled a collection of devices and modifications you can make to three key areas of the home-the main entrance, bathroom and kitchen-so that you or your loved ones can enjoy the golden years in the comfort of your own home.

Ramp-Up the Entrance

The first obstacle to home self-sufficiency is the ability to get into and out of the house. Depending on the needs of the occupant, entranceway modifications can be as simple as improved lighting or as complex as installing a ramp or elevator for wheelchair access.

The ramp shown here (1) is on a 1:12 slope. All landings (2) should be at least 5′ x 5′ to allow a complete turning radius for those in a wheelchair or using a walker. The ramp surface is covered in anti-slip strips and includes secure railings installed at elbow height on either side.

Stairs should have railings on both sides. Contrasting stripes of paint or anti-slip material at the front of each stair tread helps them stand out.

While their value as burglary deterrents is debatable, timer or motion-sensor lights (3) are a relatively inexpensive way to help light up an entrance, and they’re only on when you need them.

Lever handles (4) and keyless electronic locks make it easier for arthritic hands to open the door. For a deluxe touch, you can install an electric door opener ($2,000).

Modular ramp kits (5) start at about $90. They join together like Lego and can be built up to allow someone in a wheelchair to cross thresholds or a single stair. Have a look at the dimensions of your doorway: in some cases, the opening may need to be widened to accommodate someone who uses a wheelchair or a walker.

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