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Page 1 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
This publication may be reproduced without written permission provided that Assistive Technology Partners is appropriately credited. 
 
The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
Low Cost Solutions  
for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
 
Tom has been released from the hospital with a brand new manual wheelchair, 
bath seat, and toilet rails. However, he can’t get in and out of the front door, let 
alone the bathroom! This article details solutions for making a home more 
accessible. These ideas apply to persons with mobility impairments using 
wheelchairs, walkers, braces or crutches.  No-cost and low-cost ideas, along with 
more expensive alternatives, are included.  Possible funding sources and 
additional resources are also identified. 
 
Start with the Basics 
 
If you use a wheelchair, living in your home can be challenging unless you can 
answer "yes" to three basic questions. 
 
1. Can you get into the house? 
2. Can you get through the doorways? 
3. Can you get into and maneuver within the bathroom? 
 
If you answered no to any of these questions, your options are to live with your 
current situation, move to a more accessible home, build your own home or 
remodel. Here are some additional questions to help you decide whether it is 
better to remodel or move/build. 
• Has your medical situation stabilized? 
• Will you need more housing changes in the future if your abilities should 
decline? 
• What are your goals for independent living? 
• What housing modifications are needed to accommodate your desired level of 
independence? 
• Will you need assistance from a family member or outside caregiver?  Does 
space need to be planned for these people to be able to work or live with you? 
• Do you and your caregivers agree on the housing modifications that are 
needed?  Do you need to postpone housing decisions until a caregiving routine 
has been established? 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 2 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
• What are your vocational goals?  Are there better job opportunities in another 
community? 
• What is the structural condition of your home?  Does it warrant extensive 
remodeling? 
• How important is the appearance of your home?  Can modifications be made 
without destroying the architectural appearance or resale value of your home? 
• What are your financial resources?  Do you have enough money (personal, 
private, or public) to help pay for needed housing modifications and/or the 
services of a caregiver? 
 
If you decide to relocate, contact a realtor that can help you find an accessible 
home. If you decide to remodel or build your own home, here are some general 
guidelines: 
 
Accessible Entrance: You will need at least one entrance with no steps, or a way 
to get around existing steps.  Consider these options for creating an accessible 
entrance: 
 
• Use portable ramps as a temporary solution. 
• Build ramp with no more than 1" rise for every 12" length (1 to 12 ratio). 
• Re-grade the site to make a ground level entrance without steps. Make sure 
this does not compromise the foundation by allowing water build-up against the 
house. 
• Build a "bridge" to connect the house and yard on a sloping site. 
• Unload from the wheelchair lift in the van directly onto a deck, porch, or landing 
pad. 
• Install a weather-resistant lift or elevator (or provide a protective structure over 
it). 
 
Wide doorways: You will need at least a 32" clear opening to roll a wheelchair 
through a doorway under your own power.  Here are some ways to make an 
existing doorway wider: 
• Remove the door temporarily. 
• Install swing-away hinges. 
• Reverse swing of door to allow it to open wider. 
• Remove some or all of woodwork around door. 
• Replace existing door with wider one. 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 3 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
 
Usable bathroom: You will need a 60" diameter circle of maneuvering space to 
be able to reach fixtures.  There are several options to gain more usable floor 
space. 
• Reverse the swing of the door to make it open out instead of into the bathroom. 
• Replace the existing door with a pocket door. 
• Remove the door (use a curtain for privacy). 
• Remove base cabinets to provide knee space under lavatory. 
• Relocate fixtures to create more floor space. 
• Replace a tub with a shower unit. 
• Move lavatory to another space where privacy is not needed. 
• Relocate toilet or shower to a corner of the bedroom.   
• Take sponge baths instead of tub bath or shower and do bathing in bedroom. 
• Borrow space from an adjacent room to make the bathroom larger. 
• Add on a new bathroom that is wheelchair accessible. 
 
Relocate, Restructure, and Rearrange 
 
Before you make plans for additional remodeling, consider no-cost or low-cost 
ways to relocate activities, restructure tasks, and rearrange furnishings. 
 
Relocate activities: If you live in a two-story home or split-level house, you may 
need to consider ways to relocate activities for eating, sleeping, bathing, and living 
onto one floor.  A family who lived in a tri-level house was almost ready to move 
when the husband came home from the hospital using a wheelchair.  He was 
unable to perform daily activities independently because the master bedroom, 
bathroom and kitchen were on different floors. The family rearranged the home so 
that everything he needed was on the main floor. These changes allowed the 
husband to function independently during the day when his family was not around.  
He now had access to the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, dining room, and office 
area on one level.  During the evening he could move his wheelchair to the lower 
level, with family assistance, by going out the front door, around the house on a 
ramped sidewalk, and through the sliding glass doors to the family/living room. 
 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 4 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
Restructure tasks: If some of the household tasks you used to do are no longer 
accessible, think about eliminating these tasks or having someone else do them 
for you.  For example, other members of the household could get the mail or do 
the laundry and you could assume some of their responsibilities.  
 
Rearrange furnishings: Less “stuff” is more space.  A wheelchair or walker takes 
more space to maneuver in the home.  Large pieces of furniture may block access 
to rooms or to make it difficult to get around.  Rearrange furnishings in these 
rooms to create straight traffic lanes.  
 
Identify problems and solutions 
 
Now take a detailed look at specific areas of your home where you may be having 
difficulties.  Pay special attention to activities that you want to be able to do.  The 
following checklist identifies potential problems in your housing environment and 
possible solutions. For more information about major remodeling or new 
construction, refer to the Resource Section at the end of this publication. 
 
Yard, Walkways, and Driveways 
 
Problem: 
• Rough terrain makes wheelchair, walker, cane or crutches difficult to use. 
 
Solution: 
• Use crushed limestone to make dirt pathways smoother. 
• Pave walks and driveways with asphalt or concrete. 
• Sweep walks frequently to remove debris - twigs, nuts, loose gravel. 
• Repair or replace broken sidewalks. 
 
Problem: 
• Everyone gets wet while loading or unloading the vehicle in the rain 
 
Solution: 
• Extend the roof line of the house or porch to create overhead protection. 
• Build a covered walkway from parking area to house. 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 5 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
• Build an open breezeway for overhead protection between house and garage. 
• Build a carport or attached garage (plan adequate overhead door clearance for 
clearance of raised roof van). 
 
Problem: 
• Getting the mail takes up too much energy. 
 
Solution: 
• Move the mailbox to more accessible location. 
• Pave the path to the mailbox. 
• Put the mailbox on pulley system to transport the mail between the house and 
the mailbox. 
 
Garage/Carport 
 
Problem: 
• Steps prevent wheelchair access from the garage/carport to the house. 
 
Solution: 
• Build a new drop-off parking area outside garage that is accessible to the 
house at ground level. 
• Build a ramp inside the garage. 
• Add a lift or elevator inside the garage. 
• Slope the floor of the garage so steps or a ramp are not needed (front end near 
house high, back end near overhead doors at ground level). 
 
Problem: 
• Garage is too narrow to get in and out of vehicle. 
 
Solution: 
• Unload in driveway. 
• Remove part of garage wall to gain maneuvering space for wheelchair or 
walker. 
 
Outside Entrance 
 
Problem: 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 6 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
• Steps are difficult to climb. 
 
Solution: 
• Add non-slip surfaces. 
• Repair broken or loose steps. 
• Add sturdy handrails on both sides (should extend beyond the first and last 
step). 
• Rebuild or replace steps if too narrow or too steep. 
• Build a ramp to create an alternate route. 
 
Problem: 
• Door is hard to open and close. 
 
Solution: 
• Modify doorknobs with add-on lever handle. 
• Replace doorknobs with lever handles or push plates. 
• Install electric door opener. 
 
Problem: 
• Door gets damaged when wheelchair bumps into it. 
 
Solution: 
• Tack carpet remnant to the bottom of the door. 
• Install kick panel to protect the door. 
• Add rubber bumpers to the wheelchair foot plate edge. 
 
Problem: 
• Raised threshold blocks wheelchair access and poses a tripping hazard. 
 
 
Solution: 
• Replace the raised threshold with one that has a tapered lip. 
• Install a wedge-shaped piece of lumber to bridge the gap between the 
threshold and the floor. 
• Install a new threshold that is flush with the floor (doors may have to be 
modified or replaced). 
 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 7 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
Ramp 
 
Problem: 
• The ramp detracts from the appearance of the house and alerts outsiders that a 
person with a disability lives there. 
 
Solution: 
• Replace the ramp with earth berm or "bridge" to connect house and yard. 
• Unload from the wheelchair lift in van directly onto a deck or porch. 
• Disguise the ramp with shrubbery, plantings, retaining walls, or fences. 
• Locate the ramp on the side of house away from the road. 
 
Problem: 
• Ramp is slippery, especially in rainy or snowy weather. 
 
Solution: 
• Add non-slip surface such as silica sand, self-adhesive "grit" strips, or indoor-
outdoor carpeting. 
• Add wood strips, placed horizontally on ramp at 12 foot intervals, to provide 
traction for the person pushing the wheelchair. 
• Replace wooden flooring with expanded iron metal grid work that allows water 
and snow to fall through holes. 
• Extend roof or porch over ramp to provide weather protection. 
• Install plastic sheeting on sides of ramp during winter months to provide 
protection from wind and snow. 
 
Problem: 
• Ramp is unsafe. 
 
Solution: 
• Reduce the slope of the ramp. 
• Add level platforms for landing spots at top and bottom of ramp. 
• Add level platforms for resting spots on a long ramp. 
• Add edge protection to keep wheelchair, crutches, cane, or walker from slipping 
off edge. 
• Install handrails on both sides. 
 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 8 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
Entry Space 
 
Problem: 
• Entry space is too small for wheelchair use. 
 
Solution: 
• Remove the interior door. 
• Replace the interior door with a sliding or pocket door. 
 
Mud Room 
 
Problem: 
• Wheelchair brings mud into the house. 
 
Solution: 
• Use an Astroturf style doormat to clean wheels. 
• During the summer months, hose down the wheelchair outside before entering 
the house; dry by rolling over newspaper or washable throw rugs. 
• Install roll-in shower area where both person and wheelchair can be cleaned. 
 
Kitchen 
 
Problem: 
• Counters are too high to be able to work comfortably from a seated position. 
 
Solution: 
• Use pull-out cutting board as lowered work surface. 
• Place board across top of open drawer. 
• Use lap tray for food preparation area. 
• Pull kitchen table/card table near existing kitchen to create seated work area. 
• Remove base cabinet(s) and install lower counter or table for seated work area; 
lower upper cabinet(s) above work area to create reachable storage. 
• Install power elevating cabinets and counters. 
 
Problem: 
• Sink faucets are hard to reach from wheelchair. 
Solution: 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 9 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
• Remove floor of sink cabinet and center doorstop to create knee access (attach 
doorstop to back side of door to keep cabinet appearance) and insulate pipes 
to prevent burns. 
• Replace separate hot and cold faucets with single-lever control. 
• Add extension arm to single-lever faucet. 
 
Problem: 
• Can’t reach items stored in refrigerator or freezer. 
 
Solution:  
• Use lazy Susan to make items accessible. 
• Use a reacher. 
• Purchase a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer for easier access. 
• Select a refrigerator that has a water and ice dispenser in the door. 
• Purchase a small refrigerator for supplementary storage next to the seated 
work area. 
• Ask someone else to transfer items from a chest freezer to the freezer section 
of refrigerator once a week. 
 
Problem: 
• Kitchen is too large for the wheelchair user. 
 
Solution: 
• Create "mini-kitchen" that allows the wheelchair user to reach everything from 
one spot. Include microwave oven, portable appliances, and essential supplies 
and utensils; store small items on countertop shelf unit or rolling cart. 
 
Living Areas 
 
Problem: 
• Windows and window coverings are hard to open and operate. 
 
Solution: 
• Install auxiliary handle on bottom sash of double hung windows. 
• Replace double-hung windows with casement style windows. 
• Clear floor space in front of window so controls are easier to reach. 
• Select mini-blinds with long wand. 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 10 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
• Install power operated windows and draperies. 
 
Problem: 
• Person has trouble getting out of a chair or sofa. 
 
Solution: 
• Place a pneumatic seat lifter in chair. 
• Use chair that has sturdy arms. 
• Raise chair or sofa on wood blocks. 
 
Problem: 
• Furniture, walls, and woodwork get damaged by the wheelchair. 
 
Solution: 
• Move fragile or valuable furniture to protected location. 
• Staple carpet remnants around doorframes. 
• Make "sleeves" from carpet remnants to protect chair legs. 
• Select durable furniture. 
• Use corner guards, carpet, wanes coating, and Plexiglass sheets to protect 
walls. 
• Add rubber bumpers to wheelchair footplates. 
 
Bedrooms 
 
Problem: 
• Bedroom on the upper floor is not accessible 
 
Solution: 
• Relocate the bedroom on an accessible floor. 
• Place the bed in one end of large room on accessible floor and use bookcases 
or screens to create privacy "walls". 
• Use a daybed in the living room to create a sofa by day and a bed by night. 
• Install a stair-lift to another floor (requires a transfer to and from the lift). 
• Install a chair-lift to another floor (lifts both wheelchair and person). 
• Install residential elevator; elevator shaft can be located outside house by 
converting windows to access doors. 
 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 11 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
Problem: 
• Person feels "stranded" after getting in bed. 
 
Solution: 
• Install an intercom. 
• Use a baby monitor as an intercom. 
• Use an Electronic Aid to Daily Living (or Environmental Control System) to 
control bed, phone, lights and audiovisual equipment. 
• Program automatic dialer phone with emergency numbers. 
 
Problem: 
• Bedroom is too small for maneuvering the wheelchair. 
 
Solution: 
• Use a smaller bed. 
• Push the bed against one wall to create a wider access route. 
• Relocate other furniture to another room. 
 
Bathrooms 
 
Problem: 
• Person is worried about falling in the bathroom, especially when taking a bath 
or shower. 
 
Solution: 
• Install grab bars near the tub and shower (be sure grab bars are securely 
fastened into wall studs). 
• Replace existing shower head with a hand-held shower to bathe while seated. 
• Purchase bath bench that straddles tub (two legs inside, two legs outside). 
• Use hydraulic seat or boom lift to transfer in and out of tub. 
• Install transfer shower with built in seat. 
• Install roll-in shower (requires transfer to shower chair). 
• Build combination shower/toilet compartment so toilet can be used as shower 
seat. 
 
Office 
 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 12 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
Problem: 
• Person can't get knees under desk. 
 
Solution: 
• Put desk on blocks to make knee space higher. 
• Use wheelchair that has cut-away arms to fit under desk. 
• Transfer to secretarial chair while doing desk work. 
• Purchase accessible desk. 
 
Problem: 
• Work area isn't very efficient. 
 
Solution: 
• Create L-shaped work area with two work surfaces at right angles to each other 
(use secretarial chair to pivot from one counter to the other). 
 
Laundry 
 
Problem: 
• Can't use stairs to reach laundry in basement. 
 
Solution: 
• Move existing laundry equipment to accessible floor. 
• Replace existing equipment with stacked washer dryer unit located on 
accessible floor. 
 
Problem: 
• Can't reach controls on laundry equipment 
 
Solution: 
• Use "reacher" to operate controls. 
• Purchase laundry equipment that has touch controls or front controls. 
• Purchase front-loading washer and dryer for easier access. 
 
Funding 
 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 13 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
The following list identifies potential funding sources for making needed 
modifications.  Contact these organizations to determine their eligibility criteria and 
process for obtaining financial assistance. 
 
• Division of Vocational Rehabilitation – Call (303) 866-4714 for the office serving 
your area 
• Catastrophic case management programs available through some health 
insurance companies 
• Worker's compensation insurance benefits  
• Veterans Administration – Call (303) 894-7474 for Benefits information. 
• Public and private social service agencies 
• Local church groups 
• Community organizations, such as Shriners, Lions, Optimists 
• Center for Independent Living – Call (303) 320-1345 to contact the Denver 
office. 
• Area Agencies on Aging – Call (303) 455-1000 to contact the Denver office. 
• Federal income tax (deduct medically necessary equipment and structural 
modifications as medical expenses) 
• Community fund raising events for individuals or families 
 
             
 
 
 
 
Page 14 of 15 – Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home Accessible 
 
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The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center 
MODIFICATION/REMODELING 
RESOURCES 
 
Accessibly Systems Inc. 
5596 S. Sycamore 
Littleton, CO 80120 
303/693-7787 
www.accessiblesystems.com
 
Americans with Disabilities Act 
Accessibility Guidelines 
ADAAG Manual 
Checklist for Buildings and Facilities 
U.S. Architectural and Transportation 
Barriers Compliance Board 
1331 F. Street, N.W. Suite 1000 
Washington, D.C. 20004-1111 
800/872-2253 
http://www.access-board.gov/
 
Center for Universal Design 
800/647-6777 
http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud
 
Disability and Business Technical 
Assistance Centers 
http://www.adata.org/ 
 
Disability Systems, Inc. 
6834 S. University Blvd., #222 
Centennial, CO 80122-1515 
303/995-9008 
www.disabilitysystems.com
 
Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines 
http://www.hud.gov/fhefhag.html
 
HUD Homes and Communities 
633 17th Street 
Denver, CO  80202 
303/672-5440 
303/672-5248 TDD 
 
Home Modification Action Project 
http://www.usc.edu/go/hmap
 
Homes and Communities – People 
with Disabilities 
http://www.hud.gov/disabled.html
 
OTHER RESOURCES 
 
Assistive Technology Partners 
601 E. 18th Ave., Suite 130 
Denver, CO 80203 
303/315-1280 Main 
800/255-3477  
303/837-8964 TTY 
303/837-1208 Fax 
www.uchsc.edu/atp
 
Assistive Technology Partners 
Western Slope Technical Assistance 
Center (WesTAC) 
2897 North Ave., Module 3A  
Grand Junction, CO 81501 
970/248-0876 Main 
970/248-0877 FAX/TTY 
www.uchsc.edu/atp
 
Rocky Mountain ADA Technical 
Assistance Center 

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