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Stylish Accessibility

Last Updated on March 9, 2012

Wheelchairs and accessible homes are rarely associated with style. I suspect much of the thinking is that if you are in wheelchair then you have more pressing issues. This type of thinking is unfortunate given that it is perfectly possible to build a stylish and accessible housing.

Style and accessibility can be combined with a bit of forethought and research. There are a large range of people and shops out there offering a range of accessibility supplies that avoid the clinical utilitarianism that poorly thought out accessible housing can suffer from.

Steps and Stairs:
Stairs and steps are near universally present and unless you are planning to move into a bungalow then a stairlift will be the cheapest option for dealing with the stairs. These come in a wide variety and can be upholstered to fit in with the rest of your décor. If you would like something less obtrusive you can also get wheelchair lifts fitted, which are safer and easier to hide but far more expensive.

Steps are somewhat easier to deal with as you should be able to replace them with a ramp. While temporary and portable ramps are good options a permanent ramp can easily be adapted to fit in with your house. For example a wood ramp combined with a wooden exterior will provide an easy transition, both physically and aesthetically.

Hallways: The basic physical requirement for hallways is that they need to be well lit and a minimum of 36 inches wide so as to allow devices such as Zimmer frames and wheelchairs to change direction. Rugs and other tripping hazards should be avoided or taped down to minimize the risk. Laminated wood flooring with an anti-slip coating is a good options. A better option is to get a well fitted wall to wall carpet, just avoid the shag pile as it can easily catch in wheels and is hard to move walkers over.

Bathroom: The greatest risk in the bathroom is falling. This makes anti slip flooring such as textured surfaces like tiling or vinyl vital. Tiling offers a great range of colours and sizes so it is easier to provide a stylish non slip surface that fits your bathroom.  Grab bars are another essential feature of an accessible bathroom. Not only do they mean that if someone does slip they can break their fall but they also make it easier to move around the bathroom if you have problems with your legs. While typical option, coated in white plastic has a very clinical look, you can also find a range of more stylish steel and chrome options.

Kitchen: The main issues with kitchens are height and safety. For example wheelchair users and people who find it hard to stand in one place for long lengths of time may find that the standard height of work surfaces is dangerously high. The main problem is that having hot objects such as kettles, pots and pans at head height or above the user increases risk of spills. This means that low work surfaces with enough space to fit a chair underneath are a huge help. Most standard surfaces can be lowered to make them more accessible, though it can involve a lot of work. Similarly drawers and cabinets should come with pull out options to allow users to simply pull them out and reach down, rather than needing to lean over to get more access. Fortunately these changes can be made to most standard kitchens, meaning that there is no need to sacrifice style for accessibility.

Daniel Frank is writing on behalf of Stannah Stairlifts

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