Accessibility is a challenging aspect to incorporate in many of the world’s commonly used, everyday things. The main reason being the cost to customize for a “minority group” of the population. Who makes up for this minority? It is individuals who are physically challenged by birth, by accident or by chronic health issues.
The places where accessibility is most desired is often public areas such as restaurants, cinema, schools, government offices, shopping malls, sports arenas and tourist spots. In the western countries, many of the governments have made it mandatory to design websites with accessibility features for the visually challenged and hearing impaired. Common outdoor areas such as curbs and parking areas accommodate wheel chair bound individuals. The most common accessibility issues are related to mobility, vision and hearing. Why is this also important in a home?
Most home buyers, unless with a pre-condition of physical challenges, do not anticipate long-term needs of people living in the same home. When you are young and healthy, modern architecture styles with unusual layouts may catch your attention quicker than traditional homes whose layouts are predictable. However, there are a few things you need to consider before buying a home, especially if you are planning to spend many years ahead in the same area.
Entrance: Entrances can be at multi-levels. In a gated community, the first level of entrance is the community gate or in case of an apartment building, it would be access to lift area (most likely through basement). If it is an independent villa or bungalow, it could have a front gate attached to the fence before going to the main entrance or front door of the house. Consider these points:
Every now and then, the above situations become difficult for people with mobility issues. It’s not just for physically challenged visitors. Senior citizens with knee trouble, children who are accident-prone breaking a leg, healthy adults slipping in a bath tub or during outdoor adventure – all will come across mobility issues at some point in life. So, when you are picking a home make sure there is enough room to accommodate a ramp to the front entrance, have fewer steps to key areas of the house and has provision to add a lift if needed. While this is ideal, many homes may not be designed for accessibility let alone have space to make provisions for it. It’s really up to individuals in the end what they are trading for, while purchasing a home.
Bathrooms: Many accidents have turned fatal when an individual slipped in a bathroom. Most recently, Indian cinema actor Sridevi died in a bathtub at a Dubai hotel after losing consciousness. Some of these accidents may not be preventable as bathrooms are generally not areas where one is privy to. It is common knowledge that bathrooms can be wet and slippery, especially in the shower area. Some cultures have wet toilet areas as well, as they do not practice using toilet paper but use water instead. Individuals with chronic health issues such as hypertension, diabetes are prone to dizziness when their blood pressure and sugar levels drop below the normal range. When such an incident occurs and the individual falls, they are more likely to lose complete consciousness and hit their head against the hard walls or flooring of the bathroom. Bathroom fixtures such as taps, hand showers, cabinet handles with sharp edges can also cause grievous injury during a fall.
Although in a house hunt, the above issues may not amount to a buying decision one must consider altering their bathrooms to incorporate safety measures. Using anti-slip mattresses and tiles, adding handles to hold near the toilet closet and shower area, padding them up with soft materials like rubber, using fixtures with rounded edges (vs. sharp), having provision to add a seating in the shower area are some helpful suggestions to make bathrooms more accessible. You may also consider adding a buzzer and a door-lock that can be opened on both sides of the door in case of any emergency or alarm to be raised.
Other home areas: In general, arranging furniture closer to the walls and having fewer overhead storages will help all types of people from knocking down things in the house. The center area of a living room is best left vacant, especially when smaller children are running around the house. Kitchens, like bathrooms, should have rounded fixtures and safety handles near sink area. Safety devices to prevent fire accidents should be in place such as automatic stove timer or oven timers. Bedrooms are perhaps the only area of a home where accessibility gets lesser importance. Since it is a place where people retire to sleep at the end of the day, a comfortable bed is probably the most desirable furniture in this space.
We hope you take accessibility issues a little more seriously as caring for your family is a top priority for all individuals around the world. With an increase in chronic health problems, one cannot ignore the hazards of improper infrastructure that can change lives permanently. So choose your home carefully and choose well. We, at MyVilla.com are happy to showcase you a wide range of properties that you can handpick for your loved ones.