Home should be a safe place where you feel comfortable and relaxed, and yet many wheelchair users feel that navigating around their own house is a challenge.
Whether you’re concerned about a loved one, or trying to make your own life a little easier, Karma Mobility has put together a guide of some of the most important things to know about wheelchair access in the home.
How Wide Should A Wheelchair Ramp Be?
The minimum width for a wheelchair ramp is 36 inches between the railings, but ideally 48 inches wide would be more comfortable. This is because standard manual wheelchairs measure between 24-27 inches wide, and you should be able to fit your chair easily up a ramp with plenty of wiggle room for your elbows.
Wheelchair ramps for powered wheelchairs do not need to be any wider than a standard wheelchair ramp in most cases, although wheelchair accessories can add extra width and length onto a wheelchair. If you or your loved one have any accessories attached to their chair, you might need to consider extra width on your residential wheelchair ramp, or make sure that your accessories are easily removable.
Handrails play an essential role in the safety of wheelchair ramps, and should ideally be 32 inches higher than the ramp’s surface.
Other things to consider when installing a wheelchair ramp to your front door include whether or not you’ll need planning permission, the manoeuvrability of your wheelchair, and whether you will need platforms.
Platforms should be 40 by 40 inches wide, and installed every 30 feet as a resting spot.
How Wide Should a Doorway be for Wheelchair Access?
The recommended minimum width of a doorway for a wheelchair user is 32 inches wide, although this may vary depending on how wide your wheelchair is. For example, a small ultra lightweight wheelchair would fit through a 32 inch doorway without fault, but if your needs are more complex or you require a bariatric wheelchair, then your doorway might need to be up to 48 inches wide.
When making a doorway wheelchair accessible, it is always important to ensure that the floor surface is flat and that there are no bumps or obstructions. Likewise, lowering door handles, choosing to use levers rather than knobs, and making sure that the door is able to open fully are key decisions that will heavily impact whether or not the doorways in your home are fully accessible for your needs.
How to Use a Hoyer Lift to Transfer from Bed to Wheelchair
A Hoyer lift, also known as a patient lift, is a sling-like lift used to help those with limited mobility get in and out of bed. It is most widely utilised by caregivers or family members to move a wheelchair user without causing themselves strain. This process can also be far more comfortable for the wheelchair user than being lifted by hand.
Hoyer lifts should rarely be used without aid from a caregiver as this is extremely difficult and can cause injury.
How to Transfer from Bed to Wheelchair
- Familiarise yourself with the Hoyer lift. You should know how to use the hydraulic pump to lift the sling, lower it, and where the emergency release is before attempting to lift a person.
- Once you are familiar with your Hoyer lift, fold the sling in half lengthways and place it beside the person with the folded edge closest to their body.
- Carefully roll them to one side of the bed, and unroll the sling into the centre.
- Carefully roll them over to the other side of the bed, and unfold the remainder of the sling so it lies flat.
- Roll them back into the centre of the bed.
- Next, position the Hoyer lift beside the bed and widen the two fork-like legs to make it as stable as possible.
- Move the lift bar over the person’s legs. Use the pump to adjust it to a comfortable height.
- Attach the string through the loop bars; left strings through the left bars and right strings through the right bars. Make sure that the person’s hands are across the chest to keep them comfortable and safe.
- Slowly begin lifting the person by cranking the handle, making sure that they feel secure through the full process. It is important here to make sure that they are being lifted in a comfortable, upright seated position, so that there will be minimal adjusting once they are in the chair.
- When the sling is off the bed, slowly move Hoyer lift over to the wheelchair.
- Finally, carefully lower them down into the wheelchair, making sure that they stay in an upright seated position, and aren’t going to land on the armrests. You may need to guide their body into the chair with your hands.
How to Transfer from Wheelchair to Toilet
Transferring unassisted from a wheelchair to a toilet by yourself can seem complicated, but with the right process, equipment, and practice, it will eventually become a seamless part of your day.
The first thing you need to do is make sure there is enough space around your toilet bowl for your wheelchair. Ideally there should be 47 inches around your toilet to be able to manoeuvre easily within your bathroom.
If your toilet is next to a wall or you have a small bathroom, then a grab handle attached to the wall will be the easiest piece of equipment for getting yourself on and off the toilet. If your toilet is far from a wall, then a grab rail that folds down might be a better option for you.
How to Transfer from Wheelchair to Toilet
- Line your wheelchair up in front of the toilet, at a 45°-90° angle as this will give you the best positioning for the move.
- Make sure that the brakes are locked on both sides of the chair.
- Take your feet off the footplate and slide to the front of your chair.
- Place one hand on the grab rail and the other firmly on your chair (it may be easier to ball this hand into a fist for more stability). Use this position to gently slide yourself onto the toilet seat.
- You might want to stretch your legs out here to make yourself more comfortable and stable.
- Use the railings for stability while you are on the toilet.
How to Transfer From Toilet to Wheelchair
- Twist your body on the toilet so that you’re facing the grab rail.
- Place one hand on the grab rail, and the other firmly on your chair (you may find it easier to ball this hand into a fist for more stability).
- Push yourself up using the grab rail and slide your body sideways onto your chair.
- Straighten yourself up by sliding back, and pull your feet back onto the footplate.
If you find this move too difficult, then it may be easier for you to use a shower chair, as this will be similar in height to your toilet, and have built-in handles.
How to Make a Kitchen Wheelchair Accessible
Kitchen accessibility is just as important for living an independent life as bathroom accessibility, particularly if you are still in the position to cook and clean for yourself.
The first step is to make sure that your counters are a suitable height. It is recommended that countertops are no higher than 32 inches above the ground in a wheelchair accessible kitchen. It is also recommended to have a bench-like counter with open space beneath it to act as a worktop for preparing food, but a comfortable kitchen table also fulfils this purpose.
Storage and appliances should all be reachable distance; ovens and dishwashers, for example, would be better off at a lower height and have no obstacles between them and the counters. Ovens should also have side opening doors.
Finally, make sure there is enough space in your kitchen to move around with ease.
Other Tips for Creating a Wheelchair Accessible Home
There are many other accessibility obstacles within a house, but the correct changes will make your home the most comfortable place for you to be.
The first is making sure that your home is not carpeted. Carpets can make it very tricky to move around on wheels, so a laminate, hardwood, or tiled floor is best.
Lowering door handles, lightswitches, and the peephole on your front door will also make life a lot simpler, and increase your independence within your own home.
Remove stairs and replace them with a wheelchair lift, or opt for a stairlift if you have a lower budget or lack the space.
All of these things will add up to you living your life to the fullest, and at Karma Mobility, we are committed to making that happen.