Some thoughts on making your home wheelchair-friendly

Wheelchairs remain a fear in the minds of many of us who have grown up hearing the phrase “confined to a wheelchair”. While that is not part of our current language about disabilities, a fear still remains about needing to use one.

In truth, however, a wheelchair is a tool that can make our lives easier.

Whether you can propel yourself around in a manual or a motorised chair, one of the most important things to get right is finding the right home – or making changes to your current one. And these changes, or adaptations, must not only make it wheelchair-accessible. They need also to make it easier for us to move about and do things, to live.

Steps and doorsteps are hazards that need to be overcome. Ramps can be built to overcome outdoor steps up to a door.

Talking of doors, it is imperative that all doors inside the accommodation, not just the external ones, are wide enough to navigate and get through comfortably.

Living in a one-floor accommodation is best but if you do have a staircase, not to worry. There are chairlifts that can transport you up and down – you will just need a second wheelchair upstairs.

Decide on the ideal bathroom for your needs

The bathroom is a key area to get right. Here you can choose a walk-in roll-in shower with a suitable seat and handgrips. If you prefer to take a bath, you could use a hoist to get you in and out or, alternatively, a walk-in bath is a possibility. Whichever you choose, don’t forget to include a non-slip floor.

There are a range of toilets that you can choose from. These include those that can wash and dry your nether regions to simple elements that can increase te seat height. Once again, hand grips are important. One more item worth thinking about is a roll-under was basin to make it easier to use.

To make the kitchen more usable, lower or adjustable units are available.

wheelchair

Carpets can make it difficult to move and manoeuvre a wheelchair.

One crucial feature is the floor. I have already mentioned the necessity for a non-slip floor in the bathroom, but you need solid floors everywhere. Carpets, especially deep pile ones, are not wheelchair-friendly. Solid floors make for easier movement and make the wheelchair simpler to control.

There are lots of other bits and pieces that can be changed, such as light switches at lower levels. Mine are all pull switches, but you must make your own choice.

Just remember, as much as we try to avoid having to use a wheelchair, sometimes it is unavoidable. In that case, just keep in mind it is not a prison. a tool, a mobility aid that will make you wheelchair-enabled.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

MS is the driving force behind our move to Spain

There were a number of factors which lead Lisa and I to want to move, then to decide roughly where to go and finally to choose what we consider to be our perfect home but, without a doubt, multiple sclerosis was – and is – the main incentive.

Let me explain. Taking things in order, we realised that our present rented flat is not suitable to convert to being totally wheelchair friendly if my MS deteriorates enough for me to reach that stage. Currently, I do not use a wheelchair at home, only when I am out and about. But we had to think of what the future could hold, so we needed a place that either was already suitable or could be easily converted if the need does arise.

Secondly, we knew that my former marital home was for sale and a deal would be likely to be finalised by the summer and then I would have just six months to spend it on a new home without my benefits being affected.

So, having decided to move, we then started to look. We scoured websites like Rightmove that are popular ways for estate agents to advertise properties they have for sale but nothing seemed to match our needs.

We were getting fed up with the weather and we both wished for more sunshine. Also, we had noticed that my MS symptoms seemed to get worse as temperatures changed; more consistent weather was called for. Then, one day we were talking about our holiday two years ago when, on my November birthday, we had been sitting outside a Barcelona bar sipping Sangria in the sunshine. And that was when I suggested to Lisa that we should move to the south of Spain.

She was unsure at first as she didn’t want me to later regret leaving the nation of my birth. No such trouble for her though, as Lisa left the USA more than three years ago. Also, for the 18 years before she moved to Wales she lived in Florida so had become used to hotter temperatures. Anyway, once she was reassured about my feelings, she was as enthusiastic as I had become.

Picking an area of Spain was a little more difficult as we did not want to be far from the sea but wanted to live close to Spanish people and did not want to be surrounded by tourists. We settled on Almeria province but not the city itself, the home we found is within easy reach of a little village but only a 15 minute drive from the Mediterranean.

After looking at details of many Spanish properties online, we knew we had to take a trip out there, which we did at the end of April. It was so worth it. We knew as soon as we entered the second property that it was for us. It felt like our home and while I was sitting talking to the owner, Lisa was already working out in her mind what could go where.

Our living room in Spain looking from the back door through the wide arch into the kitchen diner. Beyond the display cabinets on the left is another wide entrance way into the hall that gives access to the wetroom and two bedrooms

Some work needed to be done before we move in but this is already in hand. We agreed the details and accepted a quote and the seller, who lives nearby, agreed to oversee the work for us. When I received my share of the money from my previous matrimonial home, we completed the purchase of our dream home that will be wheelchair accessible right from the start. Actually, we received the money into our bank account on a Friday and we completed the purchase on the Monday.

The work includes stripping out the old bathroom and installation of a wet room complete with a large shower area with a fold-down seat, fitting a new wider back door and fly screen leading from the living room out onto the decking, a ramp from the back garden up to the decking and a levelled and resurfaced walkway from the drive to the back garden. There is other work being done as well but these are the main items to make life easier for me.

It really is ideal and living in the warmth with plenty of natural vitamin D will be perfect.

As an added bonus, we even have a second bedroom so friends and relatives can stay.