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.

Wheelchairs enable users and restore independence

Out and about independently in his wheechair

Out and about independently in his wheelchair.

Surfing the internet, for want of something better to do, I came across the old but now outdated expression ‘wheelchair bound’.

It was in an article about MS published by Medical News Today in which Honor Whiteman wrote: “According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, around two thirds of people with MS retain their ability to walk, though many individuals may require the assistance of a cane or crutches to get around. In severe cases, some patients may become wheelchair bound.”

And it cannot be classified as an ‘old’ story, having only been published on January 27 this year.

For everyone who uses a wheelchair, whether always or only part of the time, I feel compelled to speak out. We are not ‘wheelchair bound’ nor are we ‘confined to’ them. Wheelchairs actually increase our ability to get around. They enable us, even empower us, to go to a variety of places and do different things. What’s more, self-propedd manual wheelchairs or electric powered ones that we can control ourselves give us both independence and freedom that would otherwise be denied to us.

So, please, don’t describe us as ‘wheelchair bound’, instead consider us as ‘wheelchair users’; maybe even ‘wheelchair enabled’, or is that a step too far?

Speaking about what to say when talking or writing about people with disabilities, let’s start right there. You need to know that, most of us don’t want to be termed as disabled people. We are people first; our disabilities are secondary.

Similarly, I have MS but I don’t suffer from it, nor a victim of it. Instead, I live with it. Whatever disability anyone may have, they are not sufferers or victims.

Some may regard this as political correctness but, really, it isn’t. It is just good manners to recognise that we are more important than our disabilities.

Everyone has different likes and dislike; as well as differing opinions. And, strange as it may seem, in this respect, people both with and without disabilities are the same.

For example, the UK has long ado dispensed with the word ‘handicapped’ and now uses ‘disabled’. In USA and Canada, the term ‘handicapped’ is accepted and widely used although in the States the law relating to rights etc is called the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hotels tend to describe their accessible rooms as ADA rooms.

Purely, personally, while preferring the use of ‘disability’, I think ‘handicap’ should be equally acceptable. I doubt that the time will ever arrive when the use of ‘differently-abled’ will ever come easily to me. It smacks so much of the political correctness that is so detestable to me.

 

 

MSNT strapline copy