In a world that was built without wheelchair users in mind, some across the United States share how they make their living spaces a little easier to manage. Hopefully one of these inexpensive hacks will work for you, or even better, spark an idea for your own ingenious access solution which I would love to hear in the comments below and possibly add in the future to this list. The 9 hacks and the associated pictures of them on this list come from 9 hacks to make your home more accessible from the website New Mobility which is a lifestyle magazine in the United States for wheelchair users.
Hack 1: Install Pull-Out Cutting Boards Below Oven and Microwave
Whether you have limited heat sensation or not, pulling a piping hot dish out of the oven or microwave can be a recipe for unwanted burns or other kitchen nightmares. Eric Thorstenson opted for an easy way to minimize those risks: adding swing-away cutting boards under his side-opening oven and microwave. “If I lean over and grab something hot, I can put it on the cutting board instead of my lap,” he says, adding that the cutting boards make checking and serving hot food much easier.
Hack 2: Bring Clothes Down to Your Level
Installing hanging rods and hooks where you can easily reach them is a no-brainer, but doing so doesn’t mean you have to leave the upper recesses of your rooms empty. Kimberly Chamberlain, a T4 para from California, lined her closet with pull-down rods that she can easily bring down for access. “The pull-down rods allow me to fill my closet and get to everything independently,” she says.
Hack 3: Use Garage Tracks to Make Rolling Shelves
Michael DiBiasio, a T9-L1 para from Rhode Island, maximized the awkward dead space under a stairwell by mounting the lowest of three shelves on rolling garage door tracks. “The rollers allow me to push the shelf to the back of the closet if I want to access the little-used items I store there, like holiday décor and luggage,” he says. The easy hack maximizes space and efficiency.
Hack 4: Get Into Any Kind of Vehicle
Kary Wright, a power wheelchair user, has an accessible van that he uses for his daily driving, but there are times he’d prefer to just go for a ride in his wife’s jeep. To get into the high vehicle, he uses a DIY ceiling lift. He fixed some ceiling track to the studs of his garage ceiling — though he says barn door track (also known as box rail) works just as well if you’re looking to save money. A WARN PullzAll electric winch does the lifting. Wright hooks onto a “C bracket” — a couple of pieces of square tubing shaped like an oversized horseshoe — that a friend welded. “Because of the shape, it’ll drop me right in the passenger’s seat,” he says. Total cost for the system, not including labor: around $400.
Hack 5: Switch to a Expandable Fabric Garden Hose
Kimberly Chamberlain has a large yard with both vegetable and flower beds that she loves tending. But watering is a hassle with a typical rubber garden hose. She switched to an expandable fabric hose and couldn’t believe the difference. They’re lighter and easier to move, don’t get kinked and you can roll over them with relative ease. “They’re a major effort saver,” she says.
Hack 6: Embrace Your Style
When Rosemarie Rossetti built her groundbreaking accessible home over a decade ago, options for stylish ADA-compliant appliances were few and far between. Today, leading manufacturers like Kohler and Moen have robust lines of sinks, grab bars, shower accessories and more. “There are a lot more options today that allow you to build spaces with styles that you love,” she says. Find out more about Rossetti and the Universal Design Living Laboratory at udll.com.
Hack 7: Go Wild with a Wet Room
Instead of using water-resistant tiles and materials only where you bathe and wash, why not make your whole bathroom water-friendly? Eric Thorstenson used mosaic tile on all his walls and floor and installed a hand-held showerhead — one of three in the room — right next to his toilet. “Having easy access to the showerhead has been very useful on the occasions where I’ve had a bladder or bowel accident,” he says.
Hack 8: Declutter Your Sports Gear With Pulley Lifts
Seth McBride and Kimberely Chamberlain (see “Building an Accessible Home to Fit Your Life” both rely on ceiling-mounted pulley lifts for freeing up space floor space from bulky sports equipment. McBride says he can easily store his handcycle and rugby chair on the pulleys. “They’re super functional, even for a quad, and they reduce the clutter that inevitably makes getting around tricky.” Plus, they’re cheap: His lifts of choice are made by RAD Cycle Products and cost $38.99 each.
Hack 9: Put Casters on Your Kitchen Table
So you found the dream dining room or breakfast table, but it’s too low or doesn’t fit your room? Adding some heavy-duty locking casters could be an easy solution to the problem. Todd Stabelfeldt and his wife, Karen, added casters to their beautiful bespoke hardwood table to transform it into an iconic-yet-mobile centerpiece. “It makes it easy to entertain, even if we have a bunch of power chair users over,” says Stabelfeldt, a C4 quad.