Making Yourself at Home

Home should be where the heart is. Your home should be welcoming, safe and, well, sweet.
But to someone with a mobility disability, or a caregiver, a home can be full of obstacles and thresholds that endanger independence, efficiency, comfort and safety.

The “average” home is full of challenges, from steps leading to the front door, to narrow doorways that won’t let wheelchairs and scooters pass through, to bathtubs with sides that need to be climbed over.

Universal design seeks to make homes safe and accessible for residents of all ages and ability levels, and it’s catching on with contractors and home builders across the world. But what if you don’t have the budget to build a brand-new home or perform an extensive remodeling?

Not to worry! Today’s home accessibility products are versatile, easy to assemble and operate, and are designed to be maneuverable (in many cases, portable), so you can improve accessibility and safety without breaking the bank. Check out these home accessibility solutions, and read the “Accessibility Scenarios” to learn about the types of equipment that can help solve accessibility problems. If you don’t find what you need, check the “Library” section for additional accessibility resources.


Armada Ramp System
New insert design allows handrails in this modular system to be connected easily without rivets or tools required. Universal platform design enables virtually any ramp configuration to be built.
Alumiramp, Inc.
(800) 800-3864

SUITCASE Signature Series Ramp
Combines ease of use with portability. Self-adjusting bottom transition plates provide greater flexibility at various ramp angles. In 2’ to 8’ lengths.
(800) 541-1903

Door Opening Systems: These systems open and close, lock and unlock doors via remote controls; most systems retrofit to existing doors.

Door Motion Technologies
(800) 291-1561

Open Sesame
(888) 973-7263

Skylink Group Otodoor
(800) 304-1187

VPL-3100 Platform Lift
Designed to fit into tight spaces, this vertical platform lift features an automatic, self-lowering folding ramp; separate up/down pushbutton switches with key control; and a spring-sensitive bottom plate that shuts the unit down when it senses an obstruction. Available in 53" and 75" maximum floor-to-floor heights.
Bruno Independent Living Aids
(866) 882-4990

Nosing Threshold Ramp
Thanks to a newly extended slope, ramps provide a smoother transition over thresholds of .75", 1.25" and 1.75", such as those found at sliding doors. In 36" widths, with traction grooves.
Diestco Mfg. Corp.
(800) 795-2392

Accessibility Scenario #1,

Your wheelchair can’t navigate the steps or stairs leading to your front door.

Accessibility Solutions: Set a ramp over a threshold or a few steps — ramps come in different lengths so you can choose the size you need, and many shorter ramps are portable and easily stored when not in use. For longer stairways and steeper terrains, longer and/or permanent ramps can do the trick. If you’re short on space, consider a porchlift or a vertical platform lift — a kind of outdoor elevator — instead. Many porchlifts are large enough to lift a power wheelchair or scooter, its rider and a caregiver all at once. And don’t forget to consider other entrances to the home. If the front door’s location doesn’t lend itself to a ramp or lift, can you put a ramp or lift at the back or side door?


Shower Platform
Makes showers accessible for wheelchairs. Lightweight aluminum platform is perforated so water drains through and is fitted with anti-slip traction tape. Built to customer specifications, with minimum 2" height.
Prairie View Industries
(800) 554-7267

AquaJoy Premier Plus Bathlift
Requires no installation: Bathlift features comfortable, washable padding and turntable to facilitate transfers. Automatically reclines up to 40°. Includes battery-operated, waterproof, floating controller.
Harmar Access
(866) 351-2776

multiCHAIR 4000tx
Portable roll-in shower/commode chair packs into a nylon carrying case that meets airlines’ carry-on luggage policies. Improves accessibility in hotel rooms and non-accessible bathrooms.
(888) 288-5653

Reliant 350 Lift
Designed to support weight-bearing or fully dependent patients, the Reliant’s ergonomic styling makes maneuvering easy. Can also be used for patients who need rehabilitation support.
Invacare Corp.
(800) 333-6900

Designer Hand Grips
Easy-to-install, 9" handgrips have a 300-lb. weight capacity and can be installed in bathtubs or showers, near toilets or staircases, or in doorways. Available in a range of finishes, styles and colors.
Home Care by Moen
(800) 882-0116

Accessibility Scenario #2

The second floor is inaccessible by wheelchair. And constantly carrying a growing child up and down the stairs is hard on caregivers.

Accessibility Solutions: Depending on the type of staircase, a stairlift or stairchair can carry its occupant to the second floor of the house — and many types can also be installed outdoors. Or consider installing an elevator in the space currently occupied by a closet. Universal design experts recommend building second- and first-floor closets directly underneath each other so an elevator can be added later.

Living Room

Universal Design Windows
Design features include motorized operations, longer crank handles, larger knobs or oversized lever locks to make casement windows easier to use. Crank handles enable homeowners to operate the bottom sash of a double-hung window with minimal effort from a seated position.
Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co.
(800) 955-8177

Lift Chairs: Beautifully designed chairs help users to get to their feet by gently raising and moving them forward when they want to stand up. Wide arrays of sizes, fabrics and amenities make it easy to find a chair to fit various decors, budgets and needs.

Golden Technologies
(800) 624-6374

Med-Lift & Mobility
(800) 748-9438

Pride Mobility Products
(800) 800-8586

Uplift Technologies
(902) 422-0804

Accessibility Scenario #3

Your child is getting too big to easy and safely lift into and out of the bathtub or shower.

Accessibility Solutions: A bath slider or sliding bath transfer system enables the bather to sit in a chair (or lie on a chaise) outside the bathtub, and then slide sideways on rails until he/she is positioned over the bathtub. Shower chairs roll right into a shower (and won’t rust or corrode when they get wet). Powered bathtub lifts can raise, lower and recline in addition to helping with transfers from wheelchairs or commodes. And patient lifts (both portable and ceiling-based types) can be used in the bathroom to safely transport adults and kids. Grab bars installed on the walls or bathtub grab bars attached to the tub’s outer wall can help with balance.


Center for Universal Design, North Carolina State University — Among the leaders in universal design, its Web site houses research, helpful links and resources, housing diagrams and plans, and downloadable pdfs all dedicated to the “Environments and products for all people” principle:

Certified Environmental Access Consultants, U.S. Rehab — Professionals with the CEAC credential have undergone special training in environmental access, then passed the CEAC exam. CEAC specialists evaluate the home and environmental access needs of seniors and people with disabilities. The U.S. Rehab Web site includes a list of CEAC providers:

Visitability Advocacy, Concrete Change — Visitability requires minimum accessibility for all new housing. While it does not mandate 100-percent accessibility, such visitability concepts as a barrier-free entrance, a ground-floor bathroom and 32" wide doorways on the main floor help ensure a home can safely and comfortably host a guest with a disability or a resident who develops a disability. The Web site includes, among other things, a free PowerPoint presentation on zero-step entryways:

Universal Home Design/Aging in Place/Housing for Adults Over 50, AARP — Archives of articles at this site are devoted to universal design, inexpensive home modifications to improve accessibility, and safety checklists:


1600 Mobile Series Lifts

A lean, modular design provides ease of use while lifting smoothly from all positions. Offers an extended vertical lifting range, from the floor onto a bed or shower chair. Features an interchangeable control box, mechanical emergency down function, ergonomic handlebars and width-adjustable base.
SureHands Lift & Care Systems
(800) 724-5305

Guardian Voyager &Easytrack Portable Ceiling Lift System
Requires no installation or expensive modifications. Easytrack is offered in several configurations to accommodate a range of home situations; portable track system can be easily and quickly set up by one person without tools. Voyager lift weighs 12 lbs. with battery and can lift up to 440 lbs.
Sunrise Medical
(800) 333-4000

The Great Outdoors

Playgrounds for All
For kids who use wheelchairs or have disabilities, playgrounds full of steps, ladders, narrow passages and ground-level sandboxes can be discouragingly out of reach. But Boundless Playgrounds seeks to create environments where all kids can have fun and play together.
Among the requirements of a Boundless Playground are universally accessible pathways and surfacing; play decks that all children can reach; swings and bouncers with back supports; and elevated sand tables and activity panels. The Boundless Playgrounds Web site ( includes a national directory of accessible playgrounds, definitions and goals of such play areas, and advice for how to start an accessible playground in your neighborhood.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!
Eating peanuts and Cracker Jack and rooting for the home team from the bleachers is fun, but kids with disabilities now have another choice: to play ball!
The Miracle League was formed a decade ago to give kids of all abilities the opportunity to play baseball. Nationwide, the Miracle League now has hundreds of active players, supported by families, friends and volunteers. Among the League’s projects: Building baseball diamonds, fields and dugouts that are wheelchair accessible and safe for players. Each player in the Miracle League bats, reaches base safely and scores a run in every inning.
For help in finding a Miracle League team in your neighborhood — or to start your own team — call Miracle League at (770) 760-1933, or visit

This article originally appeared in the Consumer Edition: April 2008 issue of Mobility Management.

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