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How to Make Your Home Handicap Accessible

A Handicap-accessible Yard

­While each ind­ividual will have different needs and wants, there are many ways to make homes more user-friendly or accessible. First, let's look at the surrounding yard. Adding paths and raised beds or hanging plants can make a yard more accessible. Think about creating a surface that's firm and level to allow wheelchair traffic but also has traction for walkers [source: Hanchek]. Edging the paths will help keep people on them and plant life off them.

Having the ability to enter the home from the outdoors is one of the first steps to enjoying a home [source: Vance]. Most federal mandates require accessible entrances and routes to get into a building. The entry doorway should have a threshold of no more than one-half inch (approximately 13 mm) in height, and it should be sloped or rounded [source: U.S. Department of Justice, Americans with Disabilities Act].

Installing a ramp is one way to make an entry accessible. A ramp should use the least possible slope, or incline, and be at least 36 inches (approximately 915 mm) wide to accommodate a person in a wheelchair [source: U.S. Department of Justice, Americans with Disabilities Act]. Handrails and curbs to prevent people from falling or slipping off the ramp are also important. An entry area protected from wind, rain, snow or ice can further add to its safety [source: Bode].

Once inside, the overall layout of the home can make a significant impact on the convenience and usability of the home. Universal design principles recommend a bedroom, kitchen, entertainment area and a full bathroom on the main floor [source: AARP].

Now, let's move inside the house.