Home Safety for Homeowners with Disabilities
Home is meant to be our safe place, but when you have a disability this can become more complicated. However, there are so many ways that people with disabilities can make their homes more safe and comfortable. Having a disability does not always prevent people from living alone or independently. With a few precautions, some tips and tricks, and being prepared for an emergency, you can make the experience better and safer!
Safety at Home
Although we don’t always think about safety in the home, it’s where we spend a large part of our time, and it should be safe and comfortable. There are some simple ways to make that happen. This is important for everyone, but for disabled people it can mean the difference between independent living and needing someone to take care of daily tasks. Of course, not all disabled people need the same safety accommodations, and intellectually disabled and physically disabled people may or may not benefit from the same precautions. You may want to consult with a doctor regarding what accommodations are needed.
- California Coalition Against Sexual Assault Safety First Initiative: Safety planning for persons with disabilities
- The Council for Disability Rights: Home modification funding sources
Doorways can be seemingly simple things, but for someone with a disability, they may be challenging. Wheelchairs are often wider than existing door frames, or walkers may catch on the molding around the door. For someone with a disability that impacts the hands, working a door knob or latch can be difficult. Luckily there are several modifications that can be made, including accessible latches, doors that can be rehinged to open the correct way, and more.
- ADA National Network: Opening doors to everyone
- The Arc: Housing issues for people with disabilities
Ramps, Stairs, and Elevators
For some who are disabled, moving between stories or up into a house can be challenging. Stairs, for example, can present difficulties for those in wheelchairs or walkers, and can be dangerous for those who are unsteady on their feet, may be at risk of fall, or who have trouble with gross motor functions. Ramps and elevators can be essential for independent living!
- Hill Country Disabled Group: A quick guide to wheelchair ramps
- American Physical Therapy Association: Making a house an accessible home: the role of PTs
Cooking and working in the kitchen can be fun for anyone, but for those with disabilities it may present challenges and unique opportunities for innovation. Planning ahead, making sure everything in your kitchen is easily within reach, labeling everything well, and purchasing modified kitchen equipment, like appliances with handles, rocker knives, and others, can all make a huge difference in the kitchen, making cooking both safe and enjoyable.
One of the major problems with bathrooms, for anyone, is they are often very small. This can be challenging for those with disabilities. Another challenge can be independently getting in and out of the tub or shower, as these generally require a step and are slippery. Disability access is important in public restrooms, and is required, but many homes are not equipped with lift bars or accessible doors and showers.
- United Spinal Association: Home modifications
- Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation: Home modification
Washer and Dryer
For many disabled people, washing clothes can be a challenge. The design of washers and dryers makes it difficult for some to move clothes from one to the other, to put clothes in and take them out. Front load washers and dryers can make this easier, and in recent years appliance designers have begun making washers and dryers more accessible, but some considerations should still be made when purchasing appliances.
Special Considerations for Children with Disabilities
Children, who often need special considerations for tasks and safety at home, also need special considerations when they have disabilities. Although accommodations can present challenges, they can also provide opportunities and avenues for innovation.
- Centers for Disease Control: Keeping children with disabilities safe
- Navigate Life Texas: Modifying homes for children with disabilities
Every family and person should have an emergency preparedness plan and supplies. This preventative action becomes even more important when someone has a disability. Medicines, any special equipment needed, and emergency numbers for any doctors or medical providers should be part of any kind of emergency kit, especially for anyone with a disability. In addition, any service animals should be a major part of your plan!
- American Red Cross: Disaster safety for people with disabilities
- US Department of Health and Human Services: Emergency preparedness resources for persons with disabilities
Fire safety and preparedness are important for everyone to consider. Disabled people should be extra prepared, as they may have a harder time evacuating if a fire were to happen. Fire prevention is important, but knowing where all exits are, having easy access to exits, and having a bag of immediate essentials can make it easier and safer to escape a fire.
- National Fire Protection Association: Fire safety for people with disabilities
- National Park Services: Fire safety for people with disabilities
Electricity is important for everyone, but for the disabled, power outages can be very dangerous. No one likes for food to spoil or to do without heat or air conditioning, but these circumstances are direr for the disabled. Medicines that need to be refrigerated, machines or devices that need power, doors or lifts or appliances that need to work - all of these can be impacted by loss of electricity. Those reliant on on power should try to have a backup generator or some other source of power, or a plan in case of prolonged electrical issues.
Like electricity, water can be essential for disabled people. Even more importantly, floods and natural disasters involving water can be even more dangerous for the disabled, as evacuation could be more difficult. Evacuations should be discussed ahead of time, and preparing for water issues, whether it’s lack of water or a water-based natural disaster, should be part of any emergency preparedness planning.
- University of San Diego: Emergency evacuation for people with disabilities
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Drinking water emergency response
As mentioned, it’s important to prepare for disasters. Natural disasters can take many forms. Depending on where you live, a plan should be put in place for any possible disasters that could happen.