How to make your home more accessible when you can’t afford modifications
One of the most frustrating things about being a disabled human is the fact that our homes are so often inaccessible. I mean, I’ve lived in Florida since 2005 in three different homes, and not one had a bathroom that was actually accessible. Modifications are expensive and sometimes out of the question. After a while, you just sort of learn how to make do and get creative. Since I’ve been in a wheelchair my whole life, I’ve had plenty of time to find different ways to make my inaccessible homes feel a little more accessible without paying for any modifications!
Use portable ramps
This wouldn’t work for a full flight of steps, but if you just need a ramp to get over a step or two, you can order a small ramp online from a ton of different places that you can place and move whenever necessary. It’s a good option for renters because it’s not going to do anything permanent to the house or apartment and you can take it with you when you move. Also, if you’re visiting someone with a similar setup, you could always bring your ramp along. I wouldn’t say it’s cheap, but it’s probably cheaper than having someone come to your home and building you a ramp that you’d eventually have to leave behind.
Get a hose attachment for your sink
A lot of homes don’t have accessible tubs or showers. Even with a shower chair, which a lot of people don’t have, it can be really hard to do something as simple as taking a shower in a tiny bathroom. When all you want to do is wash your hair, it doesn’t always feel worth the effort. Getting a hose attachment for your sink is really helpful. I always wash my hair in the kitchen because it’s so much easier.
Sort things based on how often you’ll use them
Since I’m in a wheelchair and can’t lift my arms, I have a very limited reach. One of the biggest tips I have is to arrange your things based on how often you’ll need to grab them. I have two bookshelves in my room, and while it might look cooler to arrange my books alphabetically or so the spines make a rainbow, I put the books I’ll go for the most on the shelves I can reach.
Anything that’s basically just part of a collection but not something I need to reach myself goes near the top or the bottom. I’ve also got a shelf reserved for things like my washi tape drawers or art supplies because I’ll reach for them more often than I’ll go for a book I read 4 years ago. You’ve got to learn how to prioritize everything.
Using small sets of drawers is a really great way to give you added storage in the few spaces you can reach. They’re also really great if you can’t stretch your arm out very far to reach the back of a shelf or table. Let the drawer do all the work and bring your stuff to you. It’s an inexpensive little way to make the most of your space!
Choose your furniture wisely
If you’re a full time wheelchair user, buying furniture can be a lot more complicated. You’ve got to make sure you have plenty of space to maneuver through without dinging up your couch or table, which I always do. It’s also important to think about things like which furniture you can reach the easiest or which has drawers or doors that aren’t too hard to open. Which tables you can pull up to or under the most comfortably.
For my room, I bought a daybed. It was small to give me plenty of space, but also a lot higher off the ground than a standard bed which is great because I use a hoyer lift. Another thing I chose is a three tiered cart on wheels. It’s small and lightweight enough that I can move it around to reach different sections easier. I also bought one of those cubed bookshelves that you always see in Ikea and Target catalogs so I could use those fabric square bins. They look really cute on the shelf, but they’re also easy to slide in and out. Plus, I can also take them all the way out and lay them on my desk to get things out easier if I need to!
In shared spaces, claim the easiest to reach drawer and shelves
In my last house, I had one drawer in the kitchen for my silverware, straws, and small snacks. It was one of the few that I could reach easily, so instead of it being shared by my whole family, it became the Karly drawer. I usually keep my water bottles on the top shelf of the fridge door since it’s the only one I can reach as well.
Sometimes it just makes more sense to have your own section of the room specifically for your things. It can feel a little ridiculous sometimes or like you’re being a snob, but if it makes it easier for you that’s all that matters.
Consider the alternative uses for everything
My 12-inch ruler is what I use to turn my light on and off. Backscratchers can be perfect to push small items out of the way so you don’t run them over with your wheelchair. Grill tongs are amazing grabbers and your wheelchair can be a mini bulldozer. Almost anything can be useful in an unexpected way if you’re willing to get creative!
In a perfect world, houses would just be designed with accessibility in mind so that no one ever had to come up with ways to try to make a space work just enough to get by. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, though, so I hope this was at least a little helpful!