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Make your house accessible for guests with limited mobility

4th August 2017

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

According to official statistics released by the government there are more than 11 million people suffering from some type of impairment or disability.

That is why it is important to ensure that a home is accessible for those with limited mobility and provides them with the support they need.

Many people will have family members or friends who suffer from mobility problems and while there a range of stairlifts for older people to help them in their own home, it is important family members and friends make their home inclusive to all their guests.

It could be a case that an older relative with mobility problems is coming to live with your family for a while or your family is hosting a BBQ in the garden or you are planning an indoor celebration at home and you need to make your house more accessible.

Here is a guide as to how people can adapt their homes to make it more accessible as well as some information that will help those that are planning to make renovations to the property to make it more accessible.

Legal questions to consider before altering a home

If a family member is moving in or coming to live with a relative, the house may need to be altered, but before you call in the builders to start making alterations there are a number of legal questions to consider.

Amanda Watts, Partner and Head of the Residential Property Team at Stone King, says, “If you want to make changes to your home, depending on the type of work and the kind of property you live in, you might need to get building regulations consent and possibly planning permission.

“You won’t need consent for most small changes to your own home, like putting up hand rails. Even for some bigger projects, like installing a stair lift, you generally won’t need to worry about getting consent.

“For bigger projects, like creating a wet-room by moving or removing a wall, you will need building regulations consent and for major works, like building an extension, you will probably need both planning permission and building regulations consent.

“If you live in a leasehold property you may need your Landlord’s permission, otherwise you could breach the terms of your lease. Even for minor changes I would recommend first checking with your Landlord and getting their consent - or confirmation that you don’t need it - in writing. This avoids potential difficulties in the future.

“Finally, if you live in a Grade I or II listed property, you might also need listed building consent. I would strongly recommend getting specialist advice for this, as the penalties for breaching these regulations can be severe.”

Things to consider

After checking the legal aspects of making alterations to your home, there are a number of adaptations people need to consider to make their home accessible to guests.

Experts at the National Federation of Builders suggest some great ideas that will make a property more accessible for guests with limited mobility.

The federation says, “All good builders take pride in creating a living space that feels like home and complements a comfortable lifestyle. Homes are built to be lived in and should cater to your individual needs. With the right planning and guidance, you can achieve the perfect look and feel to your home.

“Preparing for guests with mobility challenges can be as simple as rearranging some furniture or putting in a few handrails in strategic locations.

“Considerations for making your home more accessible for guests with mobility range from decluttering or removing any visible cords or wires to prevent potential hazards, or considering converting a room on the ground floor to creating a guest bedroom. A ramp can be constructed on a door to make access much easier.

“If you are planning on purchasing a new home, you could consider building extra-wide doorways, which are very practical, especially for the main access doors. However, it can also make a great design feature; for example, a pivot door or a set of sliding glazed patio doors would be a great way to provide direct light into the home, as well as allowing easy access to enter in and out of a room.

“Some home adjustments can be done yourself, but always be sure to consult a professional builder when it comes to adding bars and other furniture to the wall, or in your home.”

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) has a tool called ‘Find a Builder’ and this allows you to find local builders who specialise in the type of work that you need.

Staircases

Staircases can be a huge obstacle for older people that have mobility problems, but by incorporating a stairlift, this gives your guest independence as they don’t have to ask for help.

There are a range of stairlifts available to buy and they can be designed to fit in with your home and with the customer in mind.

The kitchen

The kitchen needs to be made accommodating for older people with mobility problems and some alterations that can easily be made include buying a small dining or breakfast table or a fold-down table.

Another wise alteration that can be made is making the kitchen sink accessible from a seated position. If your guest uses a wheelchair creating leg space underneath the sink is also an essential change that will need to be made.

The cooker is one of the most important parts of the kitchen to make changes and the stove should have its controls on the front of the appliance so the user doesn’t have to reach over any hot burners.

Heavy cooking utensils, canned foods and dishes should be stored low shelves and items that are not used on a regular basis can be stored on higher shelves.

The bathroom

A person with mobility problems that is attempting to use a bathroom that isn’t accommodating can be extremely dangerous.

Grab bars can be put in to help people with a disability to lift themselves up and for extra support and can be placed by the toilet or bath.

Buying a walk in bath or shower is another great option that will make your bathroom more accessible for a guest with mobility problems. There are a range of walk-in baths or showers available and they all put the ease and comfort back into bathing.

Getting an expert opinion is a great idea and people who are considering purchasing a special bath or shower can arrange a home visit that will allow the expert to assess what options are available and which product would best suit your needs.

Sinks in the bathroom can sometimes get overlooked, but countertop sinks are widely regarded as the most supportive and accessible sinks for those with a disability.

Flooring

Floors need to be even and while laminate and tile flooring are good options for hallways, kitchens and bathrooms, it is nice to have carpet in the living and dining rooms. Textured carpets can make it difficult for wheelchair users to move around and can trip up people with a walking stick. A low-pile carpet is extremely practical as it is regarded as the best carpet for those with mobility issues.

The garden

The make your garden more mobile and manageable details some changes people can make to outside areas, especially if your planning on hosting a BBQ that will be attended by older people or those with mobility difficulties.

By adding paving to a garden it makes it more accessible, but home owners will need to make sure the pathways are wide enough for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

A new outdoor stair lift can provide easy access to exposed staircases and enable guests with mobility problems access to areas of a garden that would otherwise be inaccessible. Now outdoor stair lifts are waterproof and can work in a variety of temperatures.