Safety in the Home for the Mobility-Impaired Person

Home safety is important for everyone; including those who are mobility-impaired

For those who have a mobility impairment or balancing issues, other challenges will need to be considered to ensure that one’s living environment is safe and accessible. Planning for safety in the home takes creativity and special considerations. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) include any activity performed daily. These activities may need to be modified for anyone who may have limited mobility, whether temporary or permanent. ADLs include cooking, cleaning, bathing, getting dressed, getting in and out of bed, to name a few.  Although everyone should be careful when performing these activities, anyone with mobility impairments should take the utmost care to maintain safety in and around the home.  

Ways to enhance safety measures for anyone who is mobility-impaired

There are many ways to enhance safety measures for anyone who is mobility-impaired. Often an occupational therapist, physical therapist, eldercare specialist, or other professional who specializes in senior care may come to your home and provide an assessment, as well as make recommendations about products and services that can provide added safety.

Mobility-Impaired man in whellchair

Home Safety Recommendations for those who are mobility-impaired:

  • add safety features for automatically turning lights off and on
  • add remote door opener with an intercom component for communicating with visitors
  • add a home alarm system
  • get an emergency medical alert system
  • create and share with a trusted source a list of emergency contacts

Maintain independence by making modifications of your home for those who are mobility-impaired


Bathrooms for the mobility-impaired

One of the most challenging safety areas in the home for anyone who uses a wheelchair or walker is the bathroom. Safety in the bathroom begins with ensuring that the doorways are at least 32 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. Showers and tubs may need to be modified to allow for easy entry to the shower and exit from the shower. Further modifications will need to be addressed if the home is a two-story house without a full bathroom on the first floor. An option in this case might include converting the half-bathroom to a full bathroom. Other bathroom options include a roll-in shower, a shower bench, raised toilet seat and grab bars to reduce the possibility of falling. Consider a non-slip tub mat, transfer bench, swivel-style shower seat, and raised or lowered sink, toilet, and shelving for easier access. 

mobility-impaired bathroom

Kitchens for the mobility-impaired

Kitchens are one of the most-used rooms in the home. Designing a kitchen that is safe and functional is highly desired. Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is another one of the most dangerous rooms in the home. The kitchen design should focus on accessibility, safety, and mobility. Consider whether the wheelchair can be moved safely and easily around the kitchen, taking the turning radius into consideration. Are counters and other appliances seated low enough to be reached safely and maintain functionality? Choose appliances with push-button controls on the front panels, if possible. Pull-out shelving allows for easy access to pots, pans, and dishes. Fire extinguishers must be easy to reach and use. All smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors must be tested regularly and should automatically contact emergency services, in case of emergency. 

mobility-impaired woman in kitchen

Other Considerations for the mobility-impaired

All sinks should have a sensor or lever-style faucet for anyone with compromised hand strength or with an inability to grasp the sink controls with their hands. Anti-scald temperature controls are an added plus for anyone with diminished feelings in their fingers or toes to prevent burns.

All stairways must have handrails to help with ambulating on stairs. Stairways are considered a high-risk area for anyone with a mobility impairment. Be sure that handrails can support the weight of the person using them. Most handrails support up to 250 pounds. The staircase should be well-lit and throw rugs should be avoided. Indoor and outdoor steps should be free of debris, leaves, toys, ice, and snow. Non-skid tape can be used to provide better traction.  Ramps can also be added to allow for ease of entry into the property and exit from the property. Stair lifts might be considered to navigate stairs as well.  

Look for other resources for the mobility-impaired

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has many resources, including a list of Independent Living Centers by State. Also check out some of our other home safety articles, like Fortifying Your Castle and Safe Firearm Storage. Being mobility-impaired does not mean you can’t live an independent life; take the steps mentioned in this article and be live safely with safe living.

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