In Every Room

You will benefit over the long term by taking time to consider the following principles as you determine and plan accessibility features throughout your home.

Reachability Back to Top

An illustration shows a gray band around a room from 30-48 inches. All light switches, outlets, thermostats and other controls should be located between 30" and 48" above the finished floor.
All light switches, outlets, thermostats and other controls should be located between 30" and 48" above the finished floor.

Wherever feasible, locate electrical outlets, light switches, thermostats, window devices, drawers, cabinets, and other home features within your reachable range. As a general rule, it is best to locate these features 30”-48” above the finished floor.  

A diagram shows a wheelchair user reaching high and low, from the front and side of their wheelchair. Understand your side and front reach capacity when designing your renovation.
Understand your side and front reach capacity when designing your renovation.

This may be a highly individual specific parameter and should be considered with your particular circumstances in mind.  There are a number of questions to consider. Will you need to reach over something (such as a counter)? How much force you will need to operate a device (such as plugging or unplugging)? Do you need to read it (e.g. the thermostat), in which case it should be mounted on an unobstructed wall?

Use levers and/or D-shaped handles for door and closet handles, cabinet hardware, faucets and other fixtures, as these are most universally useable.

Flooring Back to Top

When choosing flooring, consider durability and longevity. The general recommendation for wheelchair users is to use commercial industrial grade vinyl flooring. Continuity of flooring surfaces is valuable, as it reduces the need for thresholds to accommodate level changes. Flooring should be stable, firm and slip-resistant.

Thresholds between flooring surfaces should be as low-profile as possible.

Textured products are helpful in reducing how slippery the floor is.

Circulation and Doors Back to Top

A diagram of a door shows a 5' turning circle on both sides of the door. Consider space for turning on both sides of a doorway.
Consider space for turning on both sides of a doorway.

Take into account the dimensions of doorways, hallways and rooms, keeping in mind the need for clearance for you and mobility aids you use. The ideal clear width in all paths of travel is 36” (minimum 32”).

Spaces for turning (also called turning circles) should be 5’ x 5’ to allow for easy circulation. For power wheelchairs the optimal diameter of the turning circle is 6’. Importantly, remember to think about turning circles on both sides of the door.

A diagram shows the profiles and measurements of swing doors and pocket doors. Effective clear widths of spaces are important to consider in your planning.
Effective clear widths of spaces are important to consider in your planning.

Remember to account for doors – especially how much room they take up when they’re open, and which direction they swing. Alternatives to traditional swing doors include pocket doors (particularly those designed for heavy-duty use; see product recommendations) or barn doors (which can be beneficial, because the hardware is easily accessible). Doors should be a minimum of 36” wide, and swinging and sliding doors should have a clear opening of at least 32”.

Other Back to Top

Visual contrast between materials or the purposeful use of colors can be useful tools, particularly for persons with visual impairments. Contrast between flooring, walls and trim helps you identify different surfaces easily.

Situate your lighting so it is well-placed for your specific needs, and ensure to use high-wattage lightbulbs to properly light your space. Consider both ambient lighting (general room lighting) as well as task-specific lighting (such as above counters).

Avoid reflective surfaces by choosing matte or anti-glare products, and avoid visually confusing patterns.