Column: Solutions For Making Home Accessible

August 26, 2016

[Written by Tinee Furbert]

I bet you never thought climbing those flights of stairs in your home or being able to get in and out of your tub would be a daunting task.

Most persons over the age of 65 want to stay in their own homes after injury or illness; most persons over the age of 65 own their own home. Over the years technology has changed to allow for better access to those tasks that pose a challenge.

A buzz word we hear is universal design. Universal design is to produce buildings, products, and environments that are accessible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.

Since January 12th 2015, Bermuda has adopted the Bermuda Building Code 2014 which consists of Bermuda Residential Building Code 2014, the Bermuda Commercial Building Code 2014 and the International Building Code 2012.

Bermuda is in its infancy with enforcing universal design for buildings. Since this change was recently enacted, Bermuda will see many homes built or renovated prior to 2015 not accessible.

Some goals for making your home accessible are:

  • 1. Maintaining and increasing independent
  • 2. Maintaining and improving safety in home living environment
  • 3. Maintaining or increasing quality of life

Simple Solutions for a Universal Design Home

  • Adapt main floor of the home for one level living: No‐step entry, bathroom and bedroom / kitchen and laundry on main floor
  • Widen doorways to 36″ w/ offset hinges on doors: Doorways are often too narrow for walkers and wheelchairs [or someone carrying packages] so widening them is a plus for all
  • Install hand‐held shower heads and grab bars: Hand‐held shower heads and grab bars are some of the least expensive changes you can make and are a great help to those with balance problems
  • Use “comfort height” toilets: Many people suffer from osteoporosis, arthritis, or temporary injuries and find it hard to stand up from a normal height toilet- a higher toilet [or toilet chair that fits over the existing toilet] helps fix this challenge
  • Use transfer tub benches or tub chairs: Again due to osteoporosis, arthritis, or temporary injuries it may be difficult to stand up in a shower, step into a tub or sit down in a tub- a tub bench allows someone to sit in a tub or shower at a higher level so that it is easier and safer to get out of the tub
  • Use lever handles on doors and plumbing fixtures: Hand strength can be an issue with all ages–using a simple lever eliminates the struggle with operating doorknobs and faucets
  • Use stairlifts and ramps: Climbing stairs can be difficult when you have balance or mobility challenges. A stairlift and/or ramp may make stairs and entry thresholds safer to navigate

It is important and useful to have recommendations from a remodeler, architect and occupational therapist that has knowledge and experience with universal design.

- Tinee Furbert is a Clinical Consultant/Occupational Therapist at Medical House Ltd. and the Chairperson of the Bermuda Disability Advisory Council.

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