Before continuing on with items 5-7 in my Top Ten Tips to Access My Home series, here’s a quick recap on circumstance:
I am a non-standing, power wheelchair user with high-dependency needs.
Making my home – beautifully and easily – accessible was a project that began for me in 1998 when I became a wheelchair user due to chronic neurological illness. Our first full-scale, full-house, refurbishment, including installation of a three-floor lift, moving walls and rooms, happened in 2001. Since then, we’ve rolled with most things, tweaking adaptations where necessary.
However, now, in 2018, me, and my partner, D, will embark on another huge renovate and refurbishment project, upgrading and updating our home, to include knocking down more walls, expanding useable space for me and my wheels and utilising our home as best we are able for now and going forward.
Right now, at the start of our project, my Top Ten Tips are all about learning from past successes/failures and incorporating lessons learnt into our new plans.
I’m sharing my thoughts on this in the hope that what works, or doesn’t, for me, might be of use to you in adapting your home. Maybe you will reciprocate, with comments below, or just laugh along with me. Either way, I hope we’ll all do it better by learning from each other.
Do note that, with the multiplicity of variance in need for assistive devices, homes and finances, I can make no better recommendation than: this is what works for me. You alone must decide if it might work for you.
Okay, if you missed it, Top Tips 1-4 To Access My Home may be found here. Top Tips 5-7 are:
5. Get More Protection
Wheelchairs are hell on skirtings, door frames, and paintwork. As well as giving yourself wiggle room – as in enough room to manoeuvre (Top Tip 4) – you might want to think about protection for your Decor in any tight spots.
Obvs, wipe down paintwork where that works for you – to minimise black marks. Also, think about an idea seen in the house of a good friend – her partner has MS, her brother runs his own building firm – where clear plastic panels protect the paintwork and skirtings in tight turn areas. Tastefully done, as hers are, they look really good and I shall be copying this idea where I need to in 2018. I’ll take some photos next time I’m there.
1 shall be removing non-essential door frames and using sliding doors to try widen doorways and to avoid the need to kick doors open. Closed doors are the bane of my life – nothing quite like sitting outside and fuming over a shut door.
I will also be removing wooden skirtings from my bathrooms – going total wet room in all of them, I think … though if I had as much room as this …?
6. Floating Minimalism Works For Me
Not much to say here other than: keep everything off the floor, hoard as little as possible, use wheels as often as possible.
Every item on the floor is an obstacle for a wheelchair user. To be manoeuvred around, bumped into, trapped by. The more of these obstacles there are, the harder it is to get about.
My advice (1): use vertical rather then lateral space. Keep it spacious and tidy.
Storage, and lots of it is key. Just have somewhere to put stuff. Hanging drawers can be great – we might even be able to get into these if they’re at the right height for our wheelchair. Bookshelves: ditto. Piles of soft furnishings, papers, books, bags and … stuff strewn across the floor? Aagh! Don’t blame me if I wheel right over them in desperation.
Touch openings on drawers and doors: fabulous. I’ve struggled with too many unwieldy handles.
Tables and desk that I am able to get my legs under easily and stretch them out (my wheelchair does that bit but I need space to extend) … oh, yes. Central posts with big clunky feet on a small table: no. Drawers under the desk – no unless it’s on the side only and I can get to the drawer-less part. It’s not rocket science but with so much choice out there style and wheelchair friendly are compatible.
My advice (2): Wheels equate to independence – and that’s wheels on your furniture.
It’s often easier to pull/position furniture to me than fuss about getting to an exact position for the furniture. I use a Magis Transit Folding Trolley by David Mellor (image below) on each floor of my house as a side table wherever I am. It’s a doddle for me to adjust the position of each for my convenience. Not inexpensive, £490 at the moment, but I’ve had them for about fifteen years and they’re still in great condition.
Similarly, most of my big furniture items that occupy central floor space – sofa, arm and dining chairs, tables – have wheels, or felt pads on wood floors, so I am able to nudge them out of my way if I’ve veered to close to them. I’d rather move them than bash into them.
7. Storage (and power points): more, more, more
I might have made this point, on vertical storage, above but – I need caps for this – YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH STORAGE.
And, I mean everywhere.
We did quite well in some areas on our first major refurb for Access but, still, it wasn’t enough. What should we have done better?
Mostly, it was the equipment and medical supplies that we underestimated. You know, the need for spares – spare wheelchair, hoist, numerous batteries, lift supplies, medical consumables – foot pumps, mats, pads, bandages, medicines, wipes and so on. At any one time we are charging my bed, wheelchair, batteries in addition to all the usual home tech, and many of these items need multiple plug points.
But also, we need more towels, bed linen, bed clothes as my ill health is murder on these. We do more washing and drying, more cleaning.
In project 2018, we will create a separate laundry room, accessible space to store back-up kit, more bedroom and bathroom storage as well as upping the electrics and vertical storage.
Huge clear wheeling spaces are the objective with a clean minimalist profile for all our storage needs.
And, I’ve run out of time again, so I’ll be back soon with Top Tips 8-10 Access My Home.
Click the link to see more posts in the Access My Home series.