How To Search For Wheelchair Accessible Home

Written by
an AbleThrive community member
Content via Community Submission
Community Submission
Written by
an AbleThrive community member

Patrick Young is the founder of AbleUSA. He shares the following information and advice on how to search for an accessible home:

Close up of the back of a wheelchair

Approximately 40 million Americans have a disability (about half are those aged 75 and older), which is why many individuals choose to move into an accessible home that suits their lifestyle — especially if they live alone or don’t want to be a burden to a loved one or spouse. It can be difficult to detect this specific type of property based on exterior alone, so it’s best to research accessible homes in your area online to see how they are priced.

For example, the average listing price for an accessible home in San Francisco, California, is $1.32 million. When you’ve narrowed down a few choices, consider these features so you can have peace of mind knowing you’ll be self-sufficient in your new abode.

Is It Wheelchair Accessible?

Surprisingly enough, less than 1 percent of homes in US are wheelchair accessible, though approximately one-third have the potential to be modified if need be. The most important modifications to consider if you’re in a wheelchair include:

  • Doorways are at least 32 inches wide — French doors are a fantastic option, too.
  • Strategically placed ramps and rails. If there isn’t a ramp to get in and out of the house, it is possible to make your own to absorb some of the costs of purchasing one.
  • A roll-in shower (with a chair that’s at least 17 to 19 inches tall) designed with small tiles and a generous amount of grout to prevent slipping.
  • Strategically placed grab bars in the bathroom.
  • Water that’s adjusted to 120 degrees with anti-scalding valves to prevent burns.
  • Sinks (kitchen and bathroom) that are a maximum of 34 inches high with a 27-inch clearance for knees — or a model that can be approached from the side.
  • Single-handle or sensor faucets for ease.
  • A toilet that’s 17 to 19 inches high.
  • At least 60 inches of turnaround space in each room.
  • Minimal clutter and ample lighting.

What’s the Flooring Like?

Nappy carpeting or slippery tile floors can be dangerous to anyone in a wheelchair, walker, or cane, so it’s best if the accessible home has flooring made out of bamboo, cork, or rubberized tiles — they have a spring to them so dishes or bones won’t break upon impact. Throw rugs should be avoided at all costs, as they are a major tripping hazard. If you’re able to get up and down stairs, each step should have a gripper strip to prevent slipping. However, a more attractive and less conspicuous option can be done on your own with paint and sand.

Is There a Way to Get Up and Down the Stairs?

Unless the home is single-level, it’s important to search for an abode with a chair lift or elevator as both are costly to install on your own. In the event that neither is present but the rest of the home is accessible, try negotiating the cost so you can put that into an installation if need be. Before paying out of pocket, conduct some research to see if you qualify for a grant or another type of funding.  

Even if the home is fully accessible from top to bottom, it’s wise to invest in a good medical alert system in case of an emergency. While independence and comfort are important when you have a disability, there’s peace of mind knowing there’s 24-hour care available without having to be in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Research which option is best for you and make sure that you have the system serviced on a regular basis so that it’s always in working order.

Patrick Young is an educator and activist. He believes people with disabilities must live within a unique set of circumstances--the outside world often either underestimates them or ignores their needs altogether. He created AbleUSA to offer helpful resources to people with disabilities and to provide advice on navigating various aspects of life as a person with disabilities.

Thanks to Patrick for submitting for submitting these tips to!

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