Want to make your STA functional and inclusive for people with disability but don’t know where to start? Want to increase accessibility but don’t want to compromise your design aesthetic? I get it.
Until a decade ago, I took it for granted that I could physically move around any short-term accommodation I visited. But as someone with an adult-onset neuromuscular disability, I’ve learnt the hard way that not everywhere is accessible to people with limited mobility.
But things are changing. Accessibility in property design and execution ensures that people with permanent disabilities, age-related physical decline or temporary injuries causing limited mobility can enjoy holiday accommodation, along with any friends or family members who accompany them.
And happily, property accessibility can start with very little cost and effort.
Nothing says welcome to someone with mobility restrictions better than a well-placed slip-resistant threshold ramp at the front door.
Rubber ramps are an affordable, easily purchased solution when the rise to the door is not more than the average step (35–40 mm). Although they are not particularly beautiful, they are reasonably unobtrusive, easy to clean and easy to move when not required.
A slightly higher entrance requires a longer ramp with a gradient of no greater than 1:14 (meaning that for every 1 cm of vertical rise the horizontal length must be 14 cm). This is where recycled rubber ramps work. As they are compacted rubber, they are heavy and not as easy to move. But they can be hosed down very easily, are beautifully non-slip and come in many colours to match your house design. You can also order smaller wedges for the inside rise of the door track or door frame, allowing a smooth roll over the threshold into the house. We had these in our last house, and I thoroughly recommended them.
Price: >$50 for a small wedge to $600+, depending on your specifications
Timber or timber-look ramps are a beautiful natural look. If you’re handy on the tools or happy to pay a chippie, this can also be a great way to achieve an accessible entrance. However, the best nonslip timber-type wood or finish on natural timber is still not always perfectly non-slip. Happily, Bunnings supply nonslip strip kits that include a roll of non-slip tape, the glue and roller. This has worked wonders at my mother-in-law’s house and given her great peace of mind.
Price: ~ $16.00
Bedrisers are an easy solution to have on hand when your guest requires a bed height that is higher than your guest bed. Those who use a hoist to transfer, have joint pain making bending difficult, carers assisting a disabled companion or independent wheelchair users who self-transfer all benefit greatly from additional height.
I always travel with a set of bedrisers now, but it’s so lovely when the bed is already made up and the right height before we arrive.
You can buy them from Bunnings, but I got mine from bedrisers.com.au, who also feature videos on how to place them under various bed leg types. They are very strong, nonslip and safe. I guarantee that this is one accessible option that will make many people with varying levels of disability very happy.
Price: $25–30 for a pack of four
If you’re like I once was, you probably associate grab rails with cold hospital bathrooms – but this certainly doesn’t have to be the case. You can buy and install fixed grab rails reasonably inexpensively. They come in all sorts of metallic colours or powder-coated black and white. Even traditional chrome grab rails can look quite smart. When retrofitting fixed grab rails, unless you have existing in-wall batons, you will need to mount them onto solid pieces of timber for strength.
Price: >$100 depending on size and finish
Alternatively, you might wish to purchase an over the toilet frame, or a standing frame.
Quick accessible fixes for the shower include the humble plastic shower chair and suction grab handles. The suction handles worked well for me when I was losing my balance, however it’s not advisable to put all your weight on them.
Price: Shower chair ~$125. Suction grab handles ~$45
You might prefer to go for fixed wall mounted rails. These should be screwed into battens through the plaster wall or tiles so you may need specialised advice before installing these.
Price: >$100 depending on size and finish
While you’ve got the drill out, one essential key to accessible hygiene and comfort is a handheld showerhead on a slide rail that is easily reachable for someone sitting down. You don’t need a plumber to retrofit this: simply drill a second attachment point for the bottom of the slide rail.
Price: >$200 depending on finish and supplier
As beautiful as floor rugs are, they just don’t work with wheelchairs. Even using nonslip backings is not wheelchair proof. So let your wheelchair-using guests know you are happy to roll your living room rug up and out of the way for them.
There’s no denying that wheelchairs and other assistive equipment take up space. Can you configure the furniture in such a way that a wheelchair can sit comfortably next to the couch in front of the TV or the fireplace? Or around a firepit outside?
Your budget and space might not allow you to have the optimum accessibility features someone like me might need. But you can still go a long way to making your property easily accessible and enjoyable by the many people who are semi-ambulant due to ageing, injury or acquired disability.
Even if you only implement one of these ideas, you will vastly increase the peace of mind, comfort and overall enjoyment of your guests.
Read more about all things inclusivity and accessibility via Leanne Watson’s website, Leanne’s Wheel Life. Leanne also featured in episode 43 of Hosting With Heart. Listen here.