If your child has a disability or issues with mobility, it’s important to make the home environment comfortable, safe and accessible. The traditional home layout will not always work. Especially if your child uses a wheelchair. When it comes to modifying the home it’s important to create a space where your child isn’t just safe and comfortable, but also has room to grow, learn, develop and thrive.
But making large-scale renovations to the home can be daunting, especially if it’s the first time you’ve done it. Thankfully there is plenty of help at hand, with online resources and professional support available. Here are some things to consider.
For Less Mobile Children
If your child uses a wheelchair or has other mobility issues, a home can become a difficult challenge to navigate. Ultimately, as a parent, your goal is not just to make the space accessible, but to make sure your kids’ differences aren’t highlighted at every turn.
Your child needs a hassle-free entrance to the home. That means at least one entryway with no steps, and a space large enough to maneuver without a problem, with handrails to help. If the pathway to the house is not gently sloped, a wheelchair ramp must be installed. Sensor lighting is a good idea to make sure the whole area is illuminated.
Disability Friendly Bathroom
Modern bathrooms are often compact, and extremely difficult for a wheelchair user. If you don’t have a large bathroom there are some modifications to improve things, such as installing a roll/walk-in shower with safe, non-slip seating and grab bars. You’ll need these by the bathtub and toilet as well. Lower the shower controls so that your child can reach them. You basically want the entire bathroom experience to be fully independent. For kids who use wheelchairs make sure there is plenty of space around the toilet – there are specific dimensions to follow.
If your child is young they won’t be cooking – though many kids love getting involved in what’s happening in the kitchen. Either way, make sure you have one or more wheelchair height countertops, and adjustable counters to give your child legroom underneath. Again, space is a big issue, so make sure there is plenty of room to turn a wheelchair around in.
For Children with Visual Impairments
However familiar the environment, not being able to see makes the home a potentially dangerous place. But for a child with a visual impairment, there are plenty of steps you can take in each room in your home.
A child’s bedroom should be a haven from the world, a space where they can relax, study, dream and exert their individualism. To make sure that it is safe for a child with a visual impairment you should limit the obstructions in the main navigable path. Think carefully about how you lay out the furniture. Electrical cords should be kept out of the way and secured safely. Belongings should be kept organized so that they can be located by feel. Creating a sensory area with soft furnishings, blankets, beads, and beanbags will allow your child to relax and unwind in their bedroom.
Non-skid surfaces and grab bars are helpful in the bathroom. Non-spilling dispensers for soap and other liquids will reduce the chances of making a mess. These Braille Labels are great for identifying products in the bathroom. Strong lighting and high contrast walls, floors, towels, and bathmats can help some visually impaired children.
It should be obvious, but sharp, hot, toxic, or corrosive items should be kept safely out of reach. Kids love snacks, so make a designated space to keep some. There are steps you can take to empower your child to feel his or her way around, different textures on various items, or tactile markings on water or juice – this way your child doesn’t have to ask every time they need a drink.
Again, plan where you will put your furniture to make the space as navigable as possible. Low lying items such as tables (and the accompanying items on them) should be removed as they present trip hazards. Make sure everything is kept in a designated place so it can be located by a child with a visual impairment. And don’t forget to secure those electrical/phone cords!
Gardens for Children with Disabilities
There is no better place to soothe the body and mind than in the garden. Kids love to have fun in the garden, but when you are designing, building and planting, make sure it is safe as well as enjoyable – no toxic or spiky plants, secure fences, and well-thought-out materials. For kids who use wheelchairs, making the garden accessible is of utmost importance. Ramps and even ground are functional but can also be factored into the overall design. Kids love touching and smelling plants, so planting safe, sensory species such as lavender, rosemary or lemon balm are excellent ideas.
Disability Access and Growing Up
It may sound obvious, but it’s important not to forget that your child’s needs will change as they grow. From simple details – the shower seat being able to cope with a heavier body sitting on it, for example – to normal adolescent privacy concerns. You should be prepared to modify your home further to meet the needs of a kid who is growing up fast.
It can be challenging to modify your house for a child with a disability. But by focusing on their needs – and realizing that those needs will develop and change – the task becomes a little less difficult.
This Guest post on disability adaptations for the home has been written for inclusiveteach.com by Theodora Evans.