The Complete Guide to Disability Home Renovations.
Updated: Oct 23
Is it time to make a few alterations to your home? If you or a family member has a physical disability or are just finding it a little harder to move about the house, mobility renovations might be necessary to ease the burden and to help to continue independent living. So, how can you make your home more accessible for yourself, a disabled or elderly loved one? In this article, we will reveal the answer to these questions and guide you in the process of home adaptations and mobility renovations.
In 2018 to 2019, a survey conducted by The Family Resources revealed that 14.1 million people in the UK live with a disability and 44% of them are pension age adults while 19% of them are working-age adults. To help these individuals live comfortably and independently, their families made mobility alterations to their home to allow them to live happily and safely.
What are the home mobility modifications commonly made by their families to cater to their needs?
Common Home Adaptations For Disabled or Elderly Homeowners
Here are a few common home mobility adaptations made in critical spaces to make the home more accessible for disabled or older people.
A bathroom is essential to daily life, but it can become difficult to access as a person gets older, or for disabled people due to mobility limitations. That's why this space often needs updating to ensure it remains functional, practical and accessible to everyone family member, regardless of ability. Ultimately, the bathroom must be a safe and pleasant environment to spend time. Common bathroom modifications include the following:
Handrails and grab bars
Installing handrails and grab bars next to fixtures like toilets, sinks and showers provide additional support to keep you steady while bathing, in sitting down, pulling yourself up or walking between bathroom facilities.
Sinks and Worktops
People on a wheelchair may find it challenging to reach a sink or worktop that is either too high, too low to the ground or creates a wheelchair obstruction. In these instances, it would be best to modify the sink based on a person's particular needs, while ensuring the sink is still easily accessible to other family members.
Installing a walk-in bath with a low step and water-tight door can help you take a bath or shower easier. Most walk-in baths can replace an existing bath with minimum alteration, meaning a quick installation with little mess.
This type of toilet is easier to use than standard toilets which are too low to the ground.
Bidet Style toilets
Bidet style toilets combine a range of hygienic cleaning functions to enable continued independent living. Toilet controls, and remote controls, operate the heated seat, washing, massaging, auto deodorising and drying functions.
A walk-in shower with a low or no step into the shower area with an anti slip shower base enables easy and safe access to shower facilities. Most walk-in showers can replace an existing bath with minimum alteration, meaning a quick installation with little mess.
wheelchair-accessible walk-in shower
A wheelchair-accessible walk-in shower with no curb, which is similar to a walk-shower, can enable independent or assisted bathing.
A shower seat can make a big difference to those who find it difficult to stand for the duration of a shower but still require independence in the bathroom. When not in use a shower seat will fold neatly against the wall.
A correctly designed wet room can look modern and stylish while providing easy access for all the family's washing and bathing needs. A wet room is a great option for smaller bathrooms; if you no longer need or want a bath, you can simply remove it and create a shower area instead. A simple shower panel instead of bulky shower cubicle doors and frame will make the bathroom spacious, lighter and more comfortable to access and easier to keep clean. Ensuring a wet room is water-tight involves specialist materials and additional labour time; for that reason, wet rooms tend to be more expensive to install when compared to a standard bathroom.
Fitting lower storage that is more reachable than standard mirror vanity is also a good option for people with disabilities.
Sliding chairs or transfer benches can help you shower easily and comfortably if you have low mobility.
Weighted shower curtain and water retainer
If you have a mobility-friendly shower, it will be inevitable that water will spill outside of the shower area. A weighted shower curtain can help retain water within the shower space and help to keep the bathroom dry.
Accessible dresser and wardrobe with low hanging rails.
If you're overstretching or straining when taking out or putting away clothing, a longer dresser or cupboard storage with low hanging rails may be more convenient than standard bedroom furniture.
We all start and end our day in our beds, and the right bed height is essential with standard bed heights ranging from 16 to 24 inches (approximately 40 to 60cm). The correct bed height should match the user – If you can sit on the bed with your feet flat on the floor with your knees in a straight line with your hips, then your bed is the right height. For those in a wheelchair, to enable easy transfer, bed height should match the wheelchair seat height.
Where a career is required to assist a person in a bed, they should do so at a safe working height. Variable height adjusted beds must conform to BS EN 60601-2-52; which stipulates that the top platform (Bed height excluding mattress), must be capable of being raised to 80 cm from the floor.
Ceiling lift hoist
Installing this type of lift can help disabled people in getting in and out of bed quickly. If this is not available, a portable floor lift can also be a useful alternative. You may have to reinforce the ceiling before installing this type of ceiling lift system.
Overhead ceiling-mounted lift and travel hoists
When a little more care is needed, overhead track hoists provide much-needed lifting assistance when transferring a person in and out of bed or from the bedroom to the bathroom. Modular ceiling track mounting systems can be installed to create a transfer route virtually anywhere around the home. You may have to reinforce the ceilings before installing this type of lifting system.
People with wheelchairs and mobility aids may find it challenging to get around if the carpet in the room is thick, and those with a sensory disability may find it unpleasant and overstimulating. Therefore, using either thin carpets, vinyl or rubber flooring may be a more suitable choice.
Be sure to hide the cords and cables behind your furniture or mount them to your skirting boards to prevent people with a visual or mobility-related disability from tripping and falling.
Dark and bright wall colours can be painful to look at for people with sensory or visual disabilities. We recommend choosing a calming hue or something that contrasts your furniture to improve visibility.
Installing a stairlift would be beneficial for you if climbing the stairs is becoming too tricky. You can either sit on a chair or perch on a platform, so going upstairs can be comfortable and safe again. A stairlift can be fitted to all types of staircases - straight or curved.
A home lift is much the same as a lift you may encounter in a shopping centre, office or hospital. The only difference is that they are smaller and quieter. There is a range of lifts available that will get you between floors quickly and safely. These types of lifts have a small footprint so they can be positioned virtually anywhere in your home – even in a cupboard.
Handrails and grab rails
Installing handrails and grab rails can support you when moving down long hallways, from one step to another or from one room to another.
The fitting of ramps can help overcome small hurdles that are a big problem, such as changes in floor level or a few back doorsteps, making rooms and the outside more accessible.
Pull Out kitchen taps
Pull Out taps are essentially taps on a flexible hose. The tap head extends and can be easily be directed where required, allowing you to reach and move the tap quickly and wash things without moving your body. A single-lever or touch-sensitive operation would be also beneficial for you if you have trouble turning a tap handle or holding something with your hand.
A single-lever, touch or motion-sensitive tap operation will be beneficial if you're having trouble turning a tap handle or holding something with your hand.
Temperature regulated taps
The young and the old are more susceptible to scalding as they generally have thinner skin than those of adult age. By installing a thermostatically controlled tap, or a thermostatic valve before a standard tap, you can be safe in the knowledge that the water will never get too hot. It is a Building Regulation Requirement that all new homes shall have bath taps that do not exceed 48°c; this is good practice to follow when replacing an existing bath or bath tap.
Round edges to prevent injuries
Sharp corners in your home should be rounded off to avoid injuries.
When sitting in front of a sink, it is a little easier to grasp dishes and cutlery at the bottom of the basin if the basin is shallow.
Plan your kitchen – The kitchen work triangle
The three main points in your kitchen, the sink, hob and fridge, make up what kitchen planners call the 'kitchen work triangle'. The idea is that these three elements are close enough so that they are easily accessible when carrying out kitchen tasks. In essence, you are optimising your kitchen layout.
Wheelchair-accessible worktops and cabinets
Update your worktops and cabinets to a height that suits your needs and enhances the independent use of your kitchen appliances. Worktops installed at different heights can make the kitchen accessible to all the family. Adjustable worktops are a good option, they can incorporate sinks and hobs, but they tend to be a little more expensive.
Lights, socket-sockets and control switches
Placing switches and sockets at reachable heights is an easy way to make your electrical devices more accessible for you. Building Regulations Requirements state for new homes the height of switches, socket-outlets and controls should be between 45cm and 120cm from floor level; it is good practice to follow this requirement when refurbishing an older property.
Cover or hide cords
Hide the wires and cord behind your furniture or along the skirting boards to avoid tripping over them.
Spacing between furniture items
Arrange your furniture in a way that allows you to move around with either a wheelchair or walker.
Automatic garage door openers
Installing an automatic garage opener with remote control can be very helpful.
Driveway and path conditions
An uneven driveway with holes and cracks or hard to navigate paths can be a hazard to disabled people or people with mobility issues. Reconfiguring drives, pathways and steps to your front door can significantly reduce the risk of a fall and give you back the confidence to venture outside.
Motion-detecting outdoor lights
As well as enhancing the security around your property, lights that turn on automatically will light up your way in the dark, helping you to navigate obstacles that might otherwise be a hazard.
You shouldn't have to think twice about accessing the outdoors, but for some, the thought of navigating a few steps, or uneven ground around the home, can cause great anxiety. Installing concrete, wooden or aluminium ramps with rails and plinths that lead to your front door or from the back door to your garden is a must for wheelchair users and those that find it difficult to walk or climb steps.
A step lift is an ideal solution where a ramp isn't practicable. A step lift replaces steps to provide short lift access to a doorway or another floor level. Often seen in commercial applications, but they can be equally viable in domestic properties.
It will be of big help to you in times of emergency if your house number is visible from the street.
You might need to widen your doorways so that you can enter your home with ease using a wheelchair or a mobility walking aid. Depending on your property age, and the approach to the doorway, Building Regulation Requirements require a door opening width from 75cm up to 100cm.
Install access ramps
Lay anti slip mats in wet areas
Prevent slipping by laying some anti slip mats in areas that can become wet such as the bathroom, kitchen or garage.
Low mounted switches and controls
Getting rid of throw rugs or other obstacles
Rug, ornaments and freestanding objects may add a unique design element to your room; however, for wheelchair users and those with impaired vision or limited mobility, these items can reduce accessibility and become a trip hazard. Think about clearing away these items to create an inviting, accessible space free of clutter.
An automated door can be operated by a button, switch, or via a smart mobile phone, meaning the door can be open before you get to it and closes securely behind you. Ideal for those in a wheelchair or with a walking mobility aid.
Doorbells and camera security
The modern doorbell can include cameras and speakers, so you can see who's at the front door and ask them what they want from the comfort of your armchair. Relatives that live away can receive real time notifications and video of your visitor, adding another level of security and providing peace of mind for those that live alone. Add security cameras to the exterior of your house to keep a watchful eye on the garden, or add a camera indoors so loved ones can see that you're keeping well.
How Much Does A Mobility/Adaptation Renovation Cost?
Spending money on adaptations makes perfect sense when you consider the alternatives, such as the risk of injury from a fall, losing access to part of your home, the costs and implications of moving to a new home in a new area or the ongoing costs of a care home.
Companies installing disability, mobility or adaptation products in your home, should always use the highest quality materials available and adhere to good workmanship standards.
The cost of home adaptations depends on the type of work needed to accommodate the needs of the person. Minor modifications such as installing grab rails and ramps may be affordable, but mechanical lifting devices like stairlifts and home lifts can be quite expensive. A stairlift, for example, can cost from £1200 for a straight stairlift up to £4995 for a curved lift; while Home lifts can cost between £10,000 and £28,000. These price ranges will vary depending on the quality, type and design of the device and product.
Bathroom adaptations such as replacing a bath with a walk-in shower or walk-in bath are between £1500 and £5000, depending on size and features. Full bathroom refurbishments and wet room costs vary widely depending on the features chosen and the quality of products used, the same will apply to kitchens.
Whole-house mobility/adaptation solutions are available, but it can be challenging to find one company to manage all aspects of this for you. Costs associated with this type of work can be upward of £20,000.
We will all have different adaptation requirements depending on our immediate and or possible future personal circumstances. Still, your home should be a safe, secure and comfortable environment where you can be content in the knowledge that your home will always be a home to you.
The Disabilities Facility Grant (DFG) is a government-issued grant designed to provide financial support to people with disabilities who want to adapt their home to accommodate their needs. If you have a disability that prevents you from climbing stairs or getting into and out of the bath independently, you may be eligible for a DFG.
The DFG provided by the social services and local environmental health department offers a grant of up to £30,000 in England and £36,000 in Wales to eligible people. They also offer low-cost loans for additional funding on your home improvement project. However, your income and savings will be taken into account during the assessment for eligibility, and referrals from an OT(occupational therapist) are typically required.
If you still need additional funding for your home renovation, these organisations can also lend a helping hand and offer funds to complete the project.
Other Sources of Financial Aid:
Home renovation projects require quite a big investment, but there's no need to drop the plan just because of a tight budget. There are a lot of charities and foundations that provide funds to make disability home renovations possible and help you live independently. Now that you've got an idea on where to get help to fund the project, it's time to explore the steps in planning your home adaptation project.
Planning Your Home Renovation Projects There are several steps in planning to remodel your home, so if you're ready to take on the project, follow the guidelines below:
The first step in adapting your home is to determine what your accessibility needs are. A little tweak might do the trick for some parts of your home, but others opt to remodel their entire house, which of course will take a considerable amount of time and careful planning. If you need pieces of advice on what you might need and how to get it, you may ask for a free assessment with an occupational therapist from your local council.
Depending on the type of modifications needed in your home, you may need to hire design professionals such as an architect or interior designer that specialises in home adaptations for disabilities. When planning the design, you may also need to consider if the change you'll make is permanent or temporary in case you plan to move out in the future.
You also need to hire an adaptation specialist who has experience in adapting homes for elderly and disabled people. Selecting the right contractor may take time, but receiving multiple estimates, and interviewing each one can help you find the best one.
Your choice of materials is essential - choosing quality products ensures the safety of your home as you invest in an independent lifestyle.