Modifying Living Spaces and Entrances

Curated by
Whitney Bailey
Content via Accessible University
Accessible University
Curated by
Whitney Bailey

Accessible University is a good resource to reference when modifying your home to fit your accessibility needs. The website provides room by room considerations on how to make a home accessible.

Here are some of the considerations for your home’s entrances and living spaces:


Accessible University states that entrances refer to all doors that provide you with access into the home. Entrances can either exterior (front, side, back) or interior (typically through a garage).

Some key considerations to think about when modifying the entrances to your home is:

  • Your ability to safely get in and out of your home
  • Location of all doors
  • Width of doors
  • Proximity to your sidewalk or driveway


picture of doorway with door open

It is important to assess all available entry doors. Consider all your options. Accessible University states the goal is to create a zero-threshold entrance that can be navigated in a wheelchair or with an assistive device.

The door you choose should be 36” wide and you will need a space at least 5’ by 5’ both inside and outside the door for an appropriate turning circle.

Level door handles are the most accessible.

The door threshold should be 1/8” using typical weather stripping. (Both manual and power chairs should be able to navigate this threshold. If not, small low profile metal threshold ramps are available to make thresholds easier to maneuver. They are available at medical supply stores.)

Keep in mind the landscape around your doorways that lead to the outside because accessible entrances often will require a larger space surrounding the door. Access to that door sometimes will require new or changed accessible pathways from the sidewalk or driveway to the door. Pathways should be at least 39” wide, preferably 48” wide to be considered accessible.

The landing space inside and outside an accessible doorway should be at least 5’ by 5’ for proper turning radius when entering/exiting.


picture of wooden ramp

Accessible University states a ramp is most suitable in situations where a door is less than 30” from the ground and where there is enough space on the property to accommodate a ramp. The slope of a ramp is calculated using a rise:run measurement. Rise is the vertical distance to be achieved; run is the resulting horizontal distance to be traveled. The required slope for ramps is a 1” increase in height (rise) for every 1’ span in length (run) – a ratio of 1:12.

It is advised that landing spaces of the ramp should be level and at least 5’ by 5’ both at the top and bottom. For each 20’ length in a ramp, a level resting space of 4’ in length (and the width of the ramp) is recommended.

The total height of side rails must be 42” and interior handrails should be installed 36” above the ramp’s surface.

Remember to choose a slip-resistant finish for your ramp so that it is accessible in wet weather conditions. That being said, make sure the ramp has a place for drainage.

Ramps can be tough to modify. Contact a contractor if needed.

Porch Lifts

picture of porch lift

Porch lifts are an option for homes with existing decks or patios. Porch lifts are suitable where the height difference from the ground to the door’s threshold is 30” or higher and can be installed at exterior doors or inside garages.

Ramps and porch lifts will require maintenance.

Living Spaces

Picture of living room with furniture

Every person wants to decorate their living spaces in their own personal style. Wheelchair users have many things to consider when choosing their furniture and decor so that it fits their accessibility needs.


Accessible University states that one of the key considerations to think about when modifying a living space is your choice of furniture. Make sure to choose furniture that you can easily transfer to and from.

Some individuals might prefer firm cushions with solid wide armrests on sofas and chairs as it can be easier to push off when standing. Furniture with lower or higher elevations to ease the transitions may be beneficial for you if a caregiver or family member is assisting in your transfers. Furniture risers can be purchased to increase the height of a bed or sofa.

Accessible University advises avoiding choosing textiles with patterns for furniture if you have a visual impairment. For people with limited mobility, leather is easier to slide over and suede will help you avoid slipping down if you find maintaining a seated position difficult.


Two key factors to consider when choosing flooring are durability and longevity. Accessible University advises wheelchair users to use commercial industrial grade vinyl flooring. Having the same kind of flooring in every room reduces the need for thresholds to accommodate level changes. Flooring should be stable, firm and slip-resistant.

Reachability (Outlets, Light Switches, Thermostats)

It is important that you are able to reach necessities (outlets, light switches, and thermostats) in your home. All light switches, outlets, thermostats and other controls should be located between 30" and 48" above the finished floor. Everyone’s reachability is different, so keep that in mind when modifying your home. Make sure everything meets your specific needs.

Check out Accessible University's original post for living spaces by clicking here.

Check out Accessible University considerations for every room in your home by clicking here.

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