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How to Retrofit a Home for Accessibility

This Old House host Kevin O’Connor and Rick Castino from Operation Independence remodel a home for a wheelchair-enabled homeowner

In this video, This Old House host Kevin O’Connor and Rick Castino from Operation Independence remodel a home for a wheelchair-enabled homeowner.

Steps for retrofitting a home for accessibility

  1. Meet with the homeowner and his or her physical therapist to determine which rooms need to be altered to make the home accessible.
  2. Identify the best entryway into the house. A two-car garage offers ample room to enter and exit a vehicle, and maneuver a wheelchair, especially during inclement weather.
  3. Walk through the house and look for steps and other obstructions that lead from one room to another.
  4. Check for obstructions and steps on both sides of the thresholds at patio doors.
  5. To provide safe access to the second floor, without paying the exorbitant cost of an elevator, consider an automated stair chair.
  6. Measure all doorways and make note of any that need to be widened to accommodate a wheelchair.
  7. When evaluating the bathroom, take into account all wheelchair obstacles, including tubs, showers, vanities, and partition walls.
  8. Install a battery-powered stair chair along the staircase leading from the main living area up to the second floor.
  9. Build wood ramps or install steel ramps to provide access at all steps. Wheelchair ramps must be 1 foot long for each inch in height, so a 9-inch-high step would require a 9-foot-long ramp.
  10. Replace a standard tub with a curbless, barrier-free shower stall.
  11. Nail solid-wood blocking between the wall studs in the bathroom to provide support for grab bars.
  12. Replace the existing bathroom floor with slip-resistant porcelain tile.
  13. Install a slide-bar showerhead with handheld sprayer, and an adjustable fixed showerhead, to accommodate people of all physical abilities.
  14. Mount two or three standard grab bars in the shower stall.
  15. Double-duty grab bars are also available, including ones that serve as a towel rack, soap dish, and toilet-paper holder.
  16. Modify the existing vanity to allow the wheelchair to roll beneath the bath sink.
  17. Mount offset hinges onto the bath door to provide additional clearance into the bathroom.