Designing accessible spaces

Most of us, especially in India, don’t bother about the comforts of the elderly or those with special needs, while designing homes. It is important that spaces are created to meet the comforts of all those residing in a house. No matter how beautiful, your home will not be comfortable or appealing if you cannot move freely through its rooms. From the arrangement of the rooms to the choice of colours, many details go into the creation of accessible spaces.

Accessible spaces

Allow enough floor space to accommodate a stationary wheelchair and also enough room for a smooth U-turn, at least 78 inches by 60 inches.
nInclude tables or counters with varying heights to accommodate standing, seating and a range of tasks.

*Provide shelves and medicine cabinets that can be reached by those seated in a wheelchair.

*Make sure entry doors to rooms are 32 inches wide.
*Mount bathroom sinks no longer than 34 inches from the floor.
*Install grab bars in the shower and beside the toilet.
*UProvide a full-length mirror that can be viewed by all, including children.
*Avoid slippery or uneven carpets, uneven brick floors and other floor surfaces that could pose slipping and tripping hazards.
*For cooking appliances, look for an electric oven whose door swings open sideways.
*Installation of such an oven design would allow someone in a wheelchair to get closer when inserting and removing items without them having to dodge the oven door.
*It can be mounted at a height that is easy to access.
nYou could custom make a two burner electric burner fixed in a drawer that could be pushed out of the way when not in use. The drawers can be at such a height as to make both the burners and control within easy reach of a wheelchair bound person.
*For a refrigerator, you could consider a compact model that can be mounted at an accessible height.
*Light switches should be mounted between 36” and 40” from the floor.
*Windows should be operational from a sitting position.
*Consider adjustable or pull out shelving.
Hardware should be easily operated. Recommend plain loop handles with approximately one inch of finger space.
*Beware of five feet turning space for bedroom layout.
*Closet rods should not be high.  Closet doors should be bi-fold or sliding doors.
*Hangers in the closet should be easily accessible.
*Avoid a step entry.
*Floors and bathing spaces should have non-slippery surfaces, as it can become very tough for elderly people to balance themselves on a slippery floor.
*Ensure good lighting to help people with poor vision.
*Lever door handles are great for people with poor hand strength. Try using them when you are carrying many bags, or objects in your hands. You’ll never go back to knobs.
People with mobility and visual issues need clear open spaces so that they can navigate around a room easily. You can open up your floor spaces simply by moving your furniture out of the walking areas so that you can move about without bumping into coffee tables or decorations.

You can divide a large open area into several groupings for special use areas. Thick carpeting and area rugs can be a hazard and an accidental tripping is likely to happen.
If you are replacing floor consider matte finishes in wood, tile, stone to reduce glare. Lighter colour schemes should be applied in rooms with large or many windows as to prevent the dazzle often caused with drastic differences in light levels and for people to recognise objects near the window.

Textured patterns should be used for wall-coverings.

Slick, shiny surfaces offer no friction for stability and may cause glare that can be visually confusing. As we grow older, getting around our home becomes more difficult. Your home can become more accessible with a few minor modifications.
There is much more to consider when making a home fully functional and accommodating for the elderly or people with disabilities.

Creating a home accessible and comfortable for those with special needs is based on the principles of universal design, the practice of planning new buildings or updating existing structures so they are convenient for all. You may have your own ideas about universal design features that could help you. Take a good look around your home.
Make a list of things that bother you.

These could include flexibility or the lack of it, tolerance for error, the efforts that you may have to put to make certain areas accessible.

You need to think about making lives easier for weaker individuals because of the reduced strength.

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