Will your home support you and your family for many years? Home accessibility and universal design aren't always common considerations in Ann Arbor homes, but increasing home accessibility is an easy way to get quality of life improvements for you and your family. Those improvements are a great way to ensure that you and your family members age-in-place comfortably and safely, without having to worry about moving to somewhere else designed with Ann Arbor home accessibility in-mind.
Accessible housing isn't just important for individuals with disabilities or physical impairment in Ann Arbor, although it certainly makes a difference in those people's lives. Every Ann Arbor homeowner benefits from assistive technology and accessibility improvements. Not only will you and your family appreciate the added convenience and comfort of those home improvements, but you'll also enjoy greater happiness and more peace of mind from knowing that your home will continue to support you for many years.
My Handyman of Ann Arbor, Saline, and Chelsea is familiar with the accessibility issues facing homeowners in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw County. We also know exactly which home improvements remove those challenges. We're proud to offer home accessibility solutions for our neighbors in Ann Arbor, and we're always happy to talk about some of our favorite renovations—both big and small—for people that need more comfort, safety, and convenience in their daily life.
What is Universal Design?
Broadly speaking, universal design is the practice of creating products, living spaces, and public facilities that are easily usable by individuals with a wide range of personal abilities. That means creating designs that consider factors related to accessibility, mobility, and other effects of aging or personal disability.
Throughout Ann Arbor, you can see universal design in action when you see ramps leading up to public buildings and low curbs at pedestrian crosswalks. Those principles and concepts are just as important for public businesses as they are for private homes in Ann Arbor, but not all residences are built for better access. That's why adding home accessibility improvements is so important for improving quality of life and helping people age in place.
Most people think about ramps when they consider exterior Ann Arbor home accessibility. While that's certainly a great place to start, it's not the only solution for improving exterior areas. Ann Arbor homeowners have just as many options for making life easy outdoors as they do for perfecting their indoor areas.
Even within the category of ramps, there are several possible choices. Aluminum modular wheelchair ramps are a common choice for front doors because they're highly customizable and work well for reaching higher areas, but that's not the only possible solution for Ann Arbor homes.
Threshold ramps are smaller, movable ramps that provide easier access for lower steps and inclines, such as those leading up to landings or patios. Threshold ramps are a great solution for patio doorways and other exterior doors that have a low ledge on either side.
Floodlights, pathway lighting, and better lights around your outer doors are essential home accessibility improvements that are often overlooked. Low visibility is one of the common accessibility challenges that affects people in Ann Arbor. Exterior lighting is a splendid way to reduce any issues caused by low visibility and improve access during all hours of the day.
Gravel, dirt, and uneven pathways present additional obstacles for mobility equipment users. By building smooth, paved paths that lead to your home and other outdoor areas, you'll increase ease of access for anybody with reduced mobility, eliminate tripping hazards for everybody, and create a cleaner, more finished appearance for your exterior.
Your interior could be full of potential obstacles for independent living. Few homes in Ann Arbor are designed with full accessibility. You don't have to redesign your whole home though. Major improvements like a stair lift could help, but there are minor home improvements you could also add for increased assistance.
Bathrooms present accessibility challenges because of the effects of moisture and their awkward, tight layouts. If you're looking for a great project to improve Ann Arbor home accessibility, a bathroom remodel isn't a bad idea. Just one of these bathroom remodeling projects could drastically increase quality of life for anybody with a disability or reduced mobility.
Potential Ann Arbor Bathroom Accessibility Improvements:
Grab bar installation for showers, tubs, & toilets
Toilet riser installation
Barrier-free shower conversions
Lowering hooks, racks, & towel bars
Shower bench installation or construction
Shower head replacement
Lowering vanities, sinks, & other plumbing fixtures
Reoptimizing lighting fixtures
Adding plastic mats or rubber flooring for extra grip & stability
Few factors present a greater obstacle to mobility than narrow doors or passageways. Widening doorways is a common renovation project for improving mobility and eliminating daily stress in Ann Arbor. Many wheelchairs and walkers are difficult to maneuver through standard doorways. That's a problem with several solutions.
You could entirely remove the frame and install a wider frame to provide greater ease of access, or you could replace a standard frame with a pocket frame, where doors slide directly into walls to create more space. It's also possible to simply replace existing hinges with offset hinges, which are a cost-effective, simple solution for widening a doorway.
Creating an accessible kitchen is an important part of adding universal design principles to your home. Do you keep your dishes in upper cabinets? Did you know that some Ann Arbor homeowners have customizable dish drawers that sit below their counter? With deep drawers and adjustable dowels, it's possible to move all your essential dishware, cutlery, and glass to a more easily accessible space.
Suggested Kitchen Improvements Include:
Rearranging appliances & workspaces to improve efficiency
Installing appliances designed with accessibility features
Lowering countertops & cabinets
Resurfacing cabinets with handles & other hardware
Adding cabinet lifts
Lowering switches & wall storage units
Adding open space below countertops
Raising low cupboards to increase space below
Adding pull-out cutting boards
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) has specific requirements for flooring installation. Keeping those requirements in mind for a private residence is one way to improve Ann Arbor home accessibility—and reduce the chances of slips, trips, or sudden falls. ADA compliant floors should be stable, firm, and slip-resistant. For the sake of everyone living in your home, your floors should be too—since anybody could slip or trip on uneven flooring.
Maintain Flat Floors:
If any areas of your floor are sagging, chipped, cracked, or otherwise damaged by regular wear and daily use, it's beneficial to repair that damage and smooth those areas, so that every floor in your home is completely level. Repairing damage reduces the likelihood of tripping or stumbling on cracks or holes, and maintaining an even surface helps anybody with poor balance stay standing.
Use Safer Material:
Long, high carpet pile isn't ideal for wheelchairs and other types of adaptive equipment. It isn't ideal for those with stability issues either. There are better options for safe, convenient floors in Ann Arbor—and some of them look absolutely fantastic!
Tiles are a great option because of their durability and the available textures for increasing grip; yet, they can be difficult to clean and install.
Vinyl & laminate are excellent options for wheelchairs—as long as you choose a commercial style with thick wear layers or an AC3 rating—because it has great traction, low maintenance requirements, and lower installation costs.
Engineered hardwood is strong enough to resist wear from wheels and it has a texture that adds some traction, but only a variety with high hardness is suitable, as softer wood is likely to suffer from scuffs, dents, and scratches.
Rubber is a non-slip material—even when wet—and its soft surface provides a higher level of impact absorption should a sudden fall occur. While it's durable and easy to clean, some types of rubber flooring have a subtle odor that must be eliminated with repeated mopping and extra ventilation.
Low-pile carpets are an option for anybody who wants the comfort of a carpet without the issues caused by long, dense fibers. Low pile carpets add comfort without creating mobility issues.
Are You Looking for an Ann Arbor Handyman with an Accessibility Background?
My Handyman of Ann Arbor, Saline, and Chelsea has completed many home accessibility improvements for people across Washtenaw County. Whether you're suffering from an injury or illness that's reduced your mobility or you just want improvements to make your home more comfortable, safe, and convenient for aging-in-place, our courteous, compassionate home improvement experts are here to help!