When it comes to accessible bedrooms, there are a number of general considerations that need your attention, features that you need to take into account for bed transfers, and ideas to consider about the placement of your bedroom space within your home. 

General Considerations Back to Top

A photograph of a bedroom featuring a twin bed, night table and chair, with a purple wall and patterned bedspread. A bedroom layout example with a twin bed
A bedroom layout example with a twin bed

Your optimal bedroom size is determined by your bed size and location, the dimensions of dressers and side tables, and the required clearance for movement. A room size of 10’x12’ is often sufficient, but you need to consider your individual circumstances.

An ensuite bathroom adds considerable value by providing a private and draft-free route between rooms. If possible, consider a wide doorway (36” minimum) with a zero threshold between rooms.

It is important to consider how you will circulate through your bedroom space. You should aim for a minimum turning circle of 5’x5’. Choose low-profile, sturdy furniture pieces and place them in a way that helps you maximize your maneuverability. While 5’ of clearance around the bed is recommended, 3’ is the minimum required as long as there is an adjacent turning area in the room. 

You will want to place your bedside or over-bed lamps with an accessible switch or remote operability. An outlet above the nightstand is useful for plugging in phones and other equipment, such as a CPAP machine or ventilator.

A floorplan of a bedroom with a twin bed, a 5' turning circle, dresser and closet. A standard sized bedroom with a hospital, twin bed against one wall will provide space for an adequate turning circle.
A standard sized bedroom with a hospital, twin bed against one wall will provide space for an adequate turning circle.

Wide closet doors are recommended as they allow for access to all corners. Barn doors are preferable for closets, as bi-fold doors inevitably prevent access to a significant amount of corner space in the closet. Closet rods should be located 47”-55” above the floor. Refer to Reachability for guidelines about universal reach at wheelchair height. Bear in mind the easiest reach for you is best determined by you. 

If you are a wheelchair user, choose low dressers with D-ring pulls and lightweight drawers. There should be a clear space in front for access of at least 30”x47”.

If you will not be dressing in bed or in the bathroom, consider whether there will be a dressing area in the room.

Always take into account whether another individual will share the bedroom and, if so, what his or her needs may be.

Location of your Bedroom Space Back to Top

A before and after floorplan of a main floor of a home, in which a family room was closed off to create a main floor bedroom. Consider creating a bedroom on the main floor of your home.
Consider creating a bedroom on the main floor of your home.

Bedroom accessibility is linked primarily to the placement of the bedroom within your house. Accessibility is particularly good if you create bedroom space on the main floor of your home. Overall accessibility is maximized when most all of your activities can take place in rooms on one floor. This includes your living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. 

While many homes lack separate space for a bedroom on the main floor, some homes feature main-floor dens or office space or even underutilized formal living rooms that can be considered for bedroom space.

If your home does not have an obviously workable bedroom space on the main floor, get creative  when figuring out how to establish bedroom space. Can you rethink how your available space could be used? Could a dining room be better used as a bedroom? Could you create a bedroom by installing walls in spaces that are currently used for other purposes?

An architect or designer experienced in accessibility is likely best equipped to help you plan these types of modifications.  It is always recommended that an occupational therapist provide input about your particular needs and what modifications and equipment are appropriate in your circumstance.

Getting In and Out of Bed Back to Top

If you are in a wheelchair, the easiest surface-to-surface independent or caregiver-assisted transfers occur when the bed mattress height is the same as the height of your wheelchair cushion. You can accomplish this by replacing your mattress or using furniture risers of varying sizes. Occasionally, removing or adding a box spring can work (if sufficient support is provided by the bed frame).

If you need mechanical assistance for bed transfers, consider ceiling or portable floor lifts and other aids.

Ceiling Lifts

Ceiling lifts are motorized lifts that are attached to a track system and provide the ability to raise and lower an individual to and from a bed. They also slide horizontally to raise and lower a person to and from a wheelchair or commode chair. Ceiling lifts and slings should be authorized for appropriate placement by an occupational therapist following an assessment of your individual needs and your home. Both lifts and slings are partially covered by Alberta Aids to Daily Living (AADL) when authorized by an occupational therapist.

Ceiling lift tracks should be installed carefully and according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most vendors of ceiling lifts will install the tracks for a price. Tracks and installation are not covered by AADL, although funding may be arranged through various agencies, and insurance may cover these costs.

Typically ceiling tracks are installed into standard ceiling joists; however, they often cannot be installed into engineered joists, which are commonly used in newer homes. In these instances you can use wall-mounted or free-standing ceiling track systems (which are more expensive).   

Portable Floor lifts

If ceiling lift installation is not possible or unsuitable in your situation, you may wish to use a mechanical portable floor lift for transfers. In this case there must be enough floor clearance in the room for the lift. Remember: These lifts use a fork platform of legs that roll under a bed. Because of this, you will not be able to use a captain’s bed or under-bed storage. Portable lifts may also be funded by AADL.  An accessible outlet is required, as all mechanical lifts must be plugged in each night to recharge.

Other Transfer Aids

You may find that other transfer aids, such as floor-to-ceiling transfer poles, wall-mounted grab bars and bed rails may be helpful to you. Wall-mounted grab bars must always be installed into reinforced walls or via specialty hardware designed to withstand the transfer weight.

Transfer aids should always be assessed by an occupational therapist (or in some cases by a physical therapist) for appropriateness for the individual.

An accessible outlet is required as ceiling lifts and other mechanical lifts must be plugged in each night to recharge.