Designing with care

 EASY TO NEGOTIATE Homes should not be filled with too many artifacts and curios as it makes it difficult for the  patient (even for old people) to move around. Getty ImagesBeautiful homes are all fine, but if your floors are slippery and you have plush sink-in sofas, it may not be very easy for people with disabilities to feel at home. Sharada Prahlad Rao offers tips on how to make your home friendly for the physically challenged.

Beautiful homes should be functional too. When you are hale and hearty, gymming, going for regular walks and eating sensibly, it’s perfectly normal to move from one level to another in a duplex apartment; but try doing it with crutches and you’ll never live in a duplex apartment ever again!

The flooring should be non-slippery – in fact I’d advocate anti-skid flooring in every room! When I see pictures of beautiful homes in magazines, I wonder if they are designed to meet the needs of a patient or someone who has difficulty with mobility.

Huge leather sofas that scream comfort are anathema to a person with a knee or joint problem because it is impossible to get up from those.

So if you have to have a plush looking sink-in sofa set, make sure you have a few simple, straight-backed chairs too. One of those chairs could have wheels (with a locking system), so that it could be used as a wheelchair in an emergency.

Homes should not be filled with too many artifacts and curios as it makes it difficult for the patient (even for old people) to move around.

The patient’s bedroom

The patient’s room should be bright and airy with at least one huge window. A small room where he can easily access things is a better option than a big one where he can’t reach out for things and has to depend on others.

This makes the patient feel self-reliant and gradually gain confidence to be able to do things on his own. The room should be painted in pastel colours with perhaps a painting of a soothing waterfall or a vibrant sunflower on one wall.

Curtains could be trendy handloom ones, which can be washed at home. The bed should have a firm mattress and comfortable pillows, with simple blankets – no spring cots and silk quilts. Cotton bedsheets, and a rubber sheet if needed, should be used and changed every alternate day, especially if the patient requires a bedpan.

There should be a bedside table with a reading light and a drawer to keep medicines, mobile and other things he may need. If the patient enjoys music, do provide a music system for him or get him an Ipod.

Keep two chairs in the room for visitors. Encourage visitors who are cheerful and can discuss issues of interest to the patient.

The bathroom

Bathrooms tend to be the biggest danger zone. The entrance to the bathroom should be big enough to enter with a walker or wheel chair and there should be no steps to jump over.

The floor should of course be anti-skid. Even bathrooms with tubs should have provision for a shower/bucket bath where the patient can sit on a stool to bathe.
All along the sides of the bathroom and next to the commode there should be bars fixed, so that the patient can hold it for better balance.

This will be useful for senior citizens too as most falls occur in the bathroom. The towel racks should not be flimsy, designer ones – they should be strong enough to grip in case one slips while reaching out for the towel.

Pretty, stencilled glass dividers are a complete no-no in the bathroom; because if one hits that accidentally the person will have deep gashes and there will be blood on the floor.

Working in the disability sector I constantly come across terms like “disabled friendly,” “accessibility”  and so on; being temporarily disabled, the full import of these words hit me now. I want to see structural and architectural changes made not only in my home, but in hospitals, hotels and malls across the city. An inclusive approach is needed in all that we do and everywhere we go.

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