Disability Retrofit

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A disability retrofit is the process of making your home handicap-accessible--remodeling for functionality over looks. The specifics of the project will depend on the people you are looking to accommodate. The following guide will provide you with some ideas for making your home friendlier to those with disabilities.


disability retrofit

Your first concern is making sure that there is handicapped access to your home.

  • Build a ramp in lieu of or in addition to any stairs that lead to the entrance.


  • Thresholds can make entry more difficult for persons in wheelchairs or those with canes or walkers. Create a zero-step entry for easier access.


  • Widen the doorways in your home to allow wheelchairs to pass through.


  • Lever-style doorknobs are easier to open for those with disabilities.


  • Make sure the entryways are well-lit and clear of any uneven or cracked pavement.


There may be places in your kitchen that are too hard to reach for those with certain disabilities. Countertops, sinks, and the refrigerator all need to be accessible.

  • Add an island to your kitchen that is set low and equipped with a sink and some counter space.


  • Add roll-out shelves to pantries and base cabinets for easy access.


  • Replace knob-style cabinet hardware and faucets with lever-style handles.


  • Replace existing appliances with those that are safer and accessible--side-opening wall ovens, induction cook tops, drawer dishwashers, microwave drawers and double-drawer refrigerators.


  • For wheelchair users, consider cabinets with higher toe kicks; table-height, roll-under cook top and sink cabinets; and drawer/peg-system storage rather than wall-mounted cabinets.

TIP: Light switches may need to be lowered to accommodate persons in wheelchairs.


The bathroom has the potential to be the most dangerous place in the home for a handicapped individual due to hazards like wet surfaces.

  • Install rails around the toilet and in the shower for support.


  • Install an elevated toilet seat with support bars on the side.


  • Install a pedestal sink for easy wheelchair access.


  • Change a step-in shower or bathtub to one with level-entry, roll-in access.


  • Change the shower valve to a pressure-balanced, anti-scald model and two showerheads so one is lower for seated users.


  • Install a lower-height, roll-under vanity for a wheelchair user.


  • Round the corners on all countertops to minimize injuries if a fall should occur.


  • Increase the color contrast between vanity cabinets and counters to help those with vision and depth perception impairments.


  • Bathroom floors can become wet and slick--install non-slip floor tiles to minimize falls.

Floors and Stairs

  • Low-pile carpet allows easy maneuverability for wheelchairs and walkers.


  • Reflective strips on the edge of the staircase will help prevent a fall.


  • Add non-skid treads or a secured- runner to eliminate a trip hazards on uncarpeted stairs


  • Invest in a stair lift, which will allow handicapped individuals to move between the floors of the house with ease.


Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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