Planning your modification ensures all accessibility solutions have been considered, your personal use of space is factored in, and the best choices can be made. There are many questions to consider, laid out in the planning steps below.
Consider Your Situation Back to Top
When it comes to creating an accessible home, it’s important to remember that each person and family are different, and each home is different. The mobility impairment you face and the mobility aids you use will determine what adaptations you pursue. Some questions to ask yourself when assessing and planning for accessibility in your home include:
- Is your condition relatively stable or progressive? If it is progressive, you will need to consider the mid- and long-term adaptations your home that you will need. Planning for future needs from the outset can result in better outcomes, lower cost and the potential for you to remain in place.
- What adaptations can be done now, and what ones can be done in the future? Balancing adaptations against criteria like budget, timelines, and quality of life all will impact what you decide to do now, and what comes later.
- To what degree do adaptations need to be permanent, and which ones should be more temporary? Consider how long you plan to remain in your space, how changes will affect resale value, and which adaptations require permanent changes versus temporary ones.
Assess Your Needs Back to Top
Getting advice from others as you assess your needs will help you plan for home modifications in the most strategic way. An occupational therapist is best positioned to help you assess your needs in your home, the activities you do within it, the design of it and how you might modify it. You also may wish to have a family member, advocate or personal connection with you during the assessment. And depending on your condition, other health-care professionals may be helpful as well. Throughout this assessment process, remember that you are the most knowledgeable about your own needs and the ways you use a space. Ultimately, any assessment – and all solutions – should reflect your unique needs.
Call Home Care to find out if you are eligible for an occupational therapist assessment at 403-943-1920. Calgary Community Aids to Independent Living is another possible source of assistance at 403-955-6955.
You may benefit from considering:
- What parts of your home do you need access to? What parts do you use most frequently, and which areas do you use less frequently?
- Consider many types of activities you do in your home. While much of your planning will be focused on entering and exiting your home, bathing and bathroom routines, and cooking and eating, don't forget other activities that are meaningful to you. What hobbies enrich your life? What activities give you meaning and contribute to your well-being? How can you plan your space to account for these things?
- What mobility aids do you use and how much space do they need to function effectively? Remember to take turning circles into account. Get help measuring the devices you use, while you are using them, to get the most accurate measurements of how much clearance you need. For example, the total width, depth and height of a wheelchair with you in it will give the most accurate indication of the necessary dimensions of spaces in your home. Take into account whether a caregiver pushes the chair, as there needs to be space to accommodate them as well. Likewise, measure your reachability - reach high and low, from the side, and from the front of your chair.
- How do you transfer from one position to another, or one surface to another? What transfers do you use? What transfer equipment is involved, if any, and in what space(s) in your home will you transfer?
Assess Your Home Back to Top
Typically, there is more than one way to solve a home modification need, and it can be important to assess all available options when determining which solutions will be most suitable for your needs and your home. (These solutions are examined in greater detail in the Room by Room section of this site.) Broadly, consider:
- What are all the spaces that could be used in your home to solve a specific need? For example, is there more than one entry to the home that could be used? More than one bathroom that could be modified?
- In some cases, it is important to ask if moving is a more appropriate option than making modifications to your current unit. Despite the cost of moving, the design of some homes makes modifications extremely challenging and costly. (See a checklist for moving and a list of realtors familiar with accessibility).
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's home adaptations checklist provides a great tool for thinking through each area of your home. While designed for seniors, it is easily used for any person with a physical mobility challenge.
- Remember: while there may be optimal solutions for accessibility challenges, there can be other solutions that are feasible, manageable and that can be considered for cost-effectiveness.
Plan Your Modifications Back to Top
After you have considered your situation and assessed your needs and the features of your home, the next step is to plan the logistics of your modifications. This will usually involve several steps:
- Evaluate which modifications involve equipment funded by Alberta Aids to Daily Living (e.g. wheelchair, grab bars) and begin the process to obtain this equipment with an AADL authorizer (typically an occupational therapist or physical therapist).
- Evaluate which modifications involve other changes that do not involve construction, and plan accordingly (e.g. relocating furniture).
- Solicit an assessment by an occupational therapist if required and not already completed.
- Consult additional home modification resources for additional considerations, ideas and information.
- Involve an architect or designer specializing in accessibility. These professionals will be able to help you best understand your current home's oppourtunities and restrictions, and will be able to help plan the best possible modifications. Their expertise enables them to imagine what might be possible in your space.
- Condense elements of your home modification plans and prioritize the modifications. You have likely identified several spaces in your home that need changing. You may be able to make all of these at once (taking advantage of a contractor on-site), or you may need to take a staged approach. If this is the case, begin with priority renovations.
- Arrange funding for your home modifications (if needed).
- Have drawings completed of the current space and modifications requested. This will help ensure measurements are exact and required modifications are communicated clearly.
- Review products that may increase accessibility and could be part of your home modifications.
- Find a contractor who is able to complete the modifications.