Accessible Home for the Holidays
Can Grandma, who uses a walker, still attend the family Thanksgiving dinner? Can a friend who sustained a spinal cord injury in military service and now uses a wheelchair join the party to watch the big game?
More than 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. have some type of disability. People who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices are often excluded from social gatherings because of barriers to entering and navigating homes.
But if your friends or family are among those that need accessibility, you can host loved ones for the holidays with some foresight. The free 32-page booklet, "Making Homes Visitable: A Guide for Wheelchair Users and Hosts," provides information about making homes visitable by people with mobility limitations and why it matters. Tips are categorized as temporary, moderate or permanent based on the relative difficulty, cost and/or permanence of the solution.
Making homes visitable is not the same as being fully ADA accessible, and needed accommodations can vary depending on the individual’s disability. That’s why the first step to making your home visitable is to speak with your friend or family member who has a disability to see what they need.
A worksheet is included in the resource that includes steps such as including the dimensions of a friend’s wheelchair and taking note of obstacles to entry. You may need to rearrange the furniture or decorations to allow for better passage once inside.
Options are available to help homeowners accommodate guests with disabilities. They include portable ramps that can be obtained from home supply companies or an offset displacement hinge that can add 2 inches to a door opening. Homeowners shouldn’t forget to consider the accessibility of restroom facilities as well.
In guide’s introduction, John Tschida, former associate executive director for research policy for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), noted that interactions with others are vital to our emotional and physical well-being.
"Humans are social creatures,” he wrote. “We are hardwired to connect with one another, to gather and create shared experiences."
“Making Homes Visitable” can help you make all your guests feel welcome over the holidays or any time of the year.
This article is adapted from one that originally appeared at the Research & Training Center on Independent Living, a KU Life Span center.