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Advice & More October 2016

Health, Wellness & the Good Life

Tactics to Increase Accessibility in Your Home

By Lynn Pribus

Today's grab bars come in designs that provide architectural interest as well as safety. Materials include teak wood which is waterproof, various metallic finishes, and even glow-in-the-dark acrylic. One interesting application has built-in LED lighting which creates an all-in-one night light/grab handle.

When home buyers are looking ahead and thinking about aging in place, they really want a first-floor master suite. While other features involving accessibility are also desirable, a first-floor master is often at the top of the list because more and more people are thinking about staying in their homes as long as possible. Accessibility options include features such as zero-step entries, roll-in showers, and wider doorways. In multi-story residences there should be an elevator or chair lift.

Other more subtle features include shallow-depth cabinets that make it easier to retrieve articles and lever handles instead of knobs on doors, sinks, and faucets.

Such features are desirable for people seeking to stay longer in their homes and essential for persons of any age with disabilities. It's estimated that almost 50 million American have some sort of mobility challenge including older people, wounded veterans, accident victims, and persons with chronic medical challenges.

The federal government, knowing the importance of accessibility, has established a "home accessibility tax credit" (HATC) which took effect in 2016 and which, in certain cases, provides federal tax relief of 15 percent of up to $10,000 of eligible expenditures per calendar year for upgrading or remodeling to provide accessibility. For more information, visit: www.ada.gov/archive/taxpack.pdf

Some states and communities also provide financial considerations. Google "home accessibility tax your state" for information.

 

New Construction

Incorporating accessibility features is a no-brainer in new home construction and it's actually easier when incorporated from the start. For example, a special program in Virginia for contractors helps them create what is known as an Easy Living Home. This voluntary certification program encourages builders to include specific features in designing and building. Of course these ideas can be used anywhere and some other states have similar programs. To learn more, visit: http://elhomes.org

Typical features include step-free access into and within the dwelling as well as interior passage doors at least 32 inches wide. The main floor should include the kitchen, an entertainment area, a bedroom, and at least one full bathroom with sufficient maneuvering space for a wheelchair or walker. Counters can also be designed with plumbing installed in a way to leave knee room for a person using a wheelchair. 

 

Remodel with an Eye to Accessibility

Accessibility is also a good choice when remodeling and doesn't make a great difference in the cost. Bathrooms are a main focus because so many home accidents occur there. One important consideration is to have enough space to maneuver a wheelchair or walker. In some cases, simply hanging the door to open outwards can provide the extra room.

The primary concern, of course, is stability and safety, so features like roll-in showers, non-slip floors in showers and tubs, good lighting, and sturdy grab bars are high on the list of any bathroom renovation.

Today's grab bars come in designs that provide architectural interest as well as safety. Materials include teak wood which is waterproof, various metallic finishes, and even glow-in-the-dark acrylic. One interesting application has built-in LED lighting which creates an all-in-one night light/grab handle.

These days, many bathroom remodels find people replacing those aging fiberglass all-in-one shower/tub combinations with no-step tiled showers. This means easier access for persons with temporary or permanent disabilities.

A sturdy built-in seat of tile or teak is another nice feature. In addition, technology has made some interesting advances in user-friendly fixtures. A hand-held shower option is a worthwhile investment and there are single-handle mixers offering easier control overflow and temperature. For technophiles, there are even touchscreen-operated showers.

Kitchens should have slip-resistant flooring, adequate open space, and good lighting. Safety and accessibility features might include front controls on the cooktop so the user doesn't have to reach over hot burners, side-by-side doors on the refrigerator, and pull-out shelves to provide lower counter space to work on. (These are also great for grandkids to use.) Storage might include shallow shelves or lazy-Susan style cabinets and fully extendable drawers for good access.

Whether considering new construction or remodeling, it always makes good financial sense to incorporate accessibility features in your plans.

 

When Lynn Pribus and her husband moved nine years ago, they had an eye to the future and chose a single-story home. There were already grab bars in the showers and any future remodeling will include the elimination of barriers.

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