Monday, July 27, 2020

Finding Accessible Homes

I was contacted by someone who moved recently, and while he absolutely loves his new place, it wasn’t easy for him to find.

This person uses a wheelchair so he needed to find a wheelchair-accessible home. Finding accessible homes or homes that could be easily and inexpensively remodeled to be accessible was challenging for him.

His hope is that the below article will offer house hunting advice for people searching for accessible homes for themselves, their children, or their aging parents.

Accessible House-Hunting Tips for People with Disabilities
by Patrick Young
Ableusa.info | patrick@ableusa.info

House-hunting always comes with some degree of difficulty. But if you have a disability, it can be near-impossible to find the perfect place to hang your hat. There just aren’t a lot of accessible homes on the market! Whether you currently have a disability or you’re planning ahead for your future aging-in-place needs, certain home accessibility features can make all the difference in your quality of life. Here are some tips to help you hunt down those elusive disability-friendly homes and make your own modifications after moving in.

Work with a Great Real Estate Agent

Top-notch realtors like the Mark Slade Homes Team will take a lot of the stress out of your housing search. Take the time to find an agent that understands your disability and really cares about your accessibility needs. Some real estate agents even specialize in barrier-free housing! These agents won’t waste your time with multi-storied homes, cramped rooms, and narrow doorways. The right real estate agent will work hard to find you an affordable and accessible home (as an example, homes in Maplewood Township have a median listing price of $569,000) with the features you’re looking for, like an open layout, zero-step entrance, and hard floors.

Focus on the Bathroom

As you search for accessible homes, focus on barrier-free bathroom features. At the very least, ensure the room is large enough that you can turn your wheelchair around completely. Some ideal bathroom features include a roll-in shower, a comfort height toilet, non-slip flooring, and empty space under the bathroom sink. Every other part of the home can be modified fairly easily, but bathroom remodels are pricey and time-consuming. Plus, an unsuitable bathroom can be a major safety hazard to seniors, according to House Tipster. When looking for your new home, keep bathroom accessibility in mind.

Budget for Modifications

Unless you get extremely lucky and find a home that meets your needs perfectly, you will need to do some modifications of your own after closing the sale. Make sure to account for these extra costs in your home buying budget. Some common home modifications to consider include installing grab bars in the bathroom and bedroom, adding a ramp to your front entrance, and using offset hinges to widen your doorways. If you have room in your budget for larger renovations, you may want to lower the kitchen counters, replace the bathtub with a roll-in shower, or install a stairlift. Depending on where you live, you may qualify for funding assistance to help cover the costs of these modifications.

Make Your Home Safer

As you unpack and get settled into your new home, keep safety in mind. Store all of your possessions in organized storage solutions and arrange your furniture so there is a clear path through each room. Philips Lifeline also recommends securing loose rugs to the floor, adding contrast strips to staircases, and placing non-slip mats in the kitchen and bathroom to minimize your fall risk. Bright lighting can also help you avoid trips and falls, so set up plenty of accessible light sources around your home—especially in dark corners and hallways!

Consider Assisted Living

If you’re a senior with a disability, this may be a good time to start thinking about assisted living. Aging-in-place can be challenging for people with mobility limitations, especially if they live alone—which also increases the risk of senior isolation and mental illness. Moving into an assisted living facility can help you stay social and maintain as much of your independence as possible.

Assisted living communities offer several beneficial services to seniors, including meal preparation, medical care, recreation opportunities, and social events. Since facilities differ in terms of services, amenities, and atmosphere, try to tour many different communities before making a choice. Keep your budget in mind as you evaluate your options. The average monthly cost for assisted living facilities in New Jersey is $5,725, but you will come across a wide range of prices in your search.

Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable at home. Take the time to find a home that meets your needs and remember that you can always make modifications where certain features are missing. The right home accessibility features will help you overcome daily disability barriers and live your life how you want!

APPENDIX From Wikipedia: In the United States, the 1988 Amendments to the Fair Housing Act added people with disabilities, as well as familial status, to the classes already protected by law from discrimination (race, color, gender, religion, creed, and country of origin). Among the protection for people with disabilities in the 1988 Amendments are seven construction requirements for all multifamily buildings of more than four units first occupied after March 13, 1991. These seven requirements are as follows:[4]

An accessible building entrance on an accessible route,
Accessible common and public use areas,
Doors usable by a person in a wheelchair,
Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit,
Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations,
Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars, and
Usable kitchens and bathrooms.
Access is typically defined within the limits of what a person sitting in a wheelchair is able to reach with arm movement only, with minimal shifting of the legs and torso. Lighting and thermostat controls should not be above and power outlets should not be below the reach of a person in a wheelchair.

Sinks and cooking areas typically need to be designed without cupboards below them, to permit the legs of the wheelchair user to roll underneath, and countertops may be of reduced height to accommodate a sitting rather than standing user. In some cases two food preparation areas may be combined into a single kitchen to permit both standing and wheelchair users.

In spite of these advancements, the housing types where most people in the United States reside – single-family homes – are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, or any other federal law with the exception of the small percentage of publicly funded homes impacted by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As a result, the great majority of new single-family homes replicate the barriers in existing homes.

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