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Accessibility and Modifications to Living Space

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  • Doors for use by persons in wheelchairs
    or with walkers should provide at least 2’8" clear
    opening with door in the 900 position. Fold
    back (swing away) hinges may be used to allow the door to
    open 90 degrees.
  • This will usually require at least 2′
    10" wide door allowing 2′ plus for door thickness,
    jambs, and throw of hinges. Cost and simplicity suggest
    the use of 3′ wide doors.
  • 27" minimum existing clear opening
    will permit difficult passage of average size adult
    wheelchair but will prohibit passage of above average
    size chairs.
  • Door closers should not require more
    than 8 to 15 pound force at the handle to open the door.
  • Public doors should provide a minimum of
    32" clear opening with door in its 900 position.
  • Public doors should have a continuous,
    smooth kick plate on the push side at least 10" high
    to allow pushing open with wheelchair bumpers.
  • There should be no step or bump exceeding
    one-half inch at doors or thresholds and there should be
    a level area 5′ by 5′ at doors. 1′ to 1’6" space to
    the side of door on the pull side must be clear.
  • Slip resistant surfaces – carborundum
    grit, strips, or rough concrete are acceptable surfaces.
  • Thresholds can be dropped to the floor.
  • A door out of the bedroom is best for
    fire safety.
  • Sliding glass doors vary in their ease of
    opening. When choosing a slider, pay attention to the clear
  • If entrance door swings in, there is a
    better seal. It may be best to remove storm (screen)

Entrance Ramps

  • Maximum slope for hand-propelled
    wheelchair ramps should be 1" of rise to every
    12" of length (4.8 degree angle; 8.3% grade).
  • Maximum slope for power chairs
    should be 1.5" rise to 12" length (7.1 degree
    angle; 12.5% grade).
  • Minimum width should be 36"
    (inside rails) – (48" is ideal).
  • A level platform of at least 5′ X 5′
    should be at the top of ramp. This landing should not
    be considered part of the overall "run"/length
    of the ramp
    . Any turning point along the ramp needs a
    level landing. If the turn is a right angle (90 degrees),
    the landing should be a minimum of 5′ by 4′. If a
    "switchback" of 180 degrees is constructed, the
    level landing should measure at least 5′ X 8′. Ramps
    longer than 30′ should provide a platform every 30′ for
    purposes of safety and to create opportunity for rest.
  • Hand rails should be provided for any
    ramp having a slope of more than 5% (i.e.- greater than
    1:12). These should extend an inch beyond the top and
    bottom of the ramp and should be located 32" from
    the ramp surface.
  • Buildings modified for accessibility
    should provide at least 2 remotely located accessible
    entrances for exit in case of emergency.
  • There should be no step or bump exceeding
    one-half inch at doors or thresholds and there should be
    a level area 5′ by 5′ at doors. 1′ to 1’6" space to
    the side of door on the pull side must be clear.
  • Slip resistant surfaces – carborundum
    grit, strips, rubber, sand sprinkled on wet paint, or
    rough ("broom finish") concrete are acceptable
  • Ramps should have a 5′ straight and level
    surface at the bottom to allow adequate stopping

information on wheelchair ramp design.


  • Counter areas should be continuous.
    Cooking and eating surfaces could be combined.
  • A movable work table may be made in place
    of lowering the existent cabinet space.
  • Work counter installed (minimum 3′ wide X
    maximum height of 2’10"). Leg clearance minimum of
  • Tile, Pyrex, or (if cost is no object)
    granite tops are best when working with a lot of hot
    foods. Formica will wear easily when hot pots are slid
    along the countertop. [Note: Rather than have an entire
    countertop which is ceramic, consider inserting a 2 to 3′
    section of granite or tile adjacent to the stove. This
    can be both functional and attractive.]
  • Drawers work best for lower cupboards due
    to the door swings on cabinets.
  • The bottom of all wall cabinets should
    not be greater than 16" above the work surface of
    the base cabinet except for those cabinets over cooking
    surfaces, ovens and refrigerators.
  • Normal base cabinets toe space should be
    6" minimum in depth and 8 3/4" minimum in
  • Controls for vent hoods and lights should
    be mounted on the counter tops.
  • All dishwashers are designed to mount
    underneath a standard 36" counter.
  • The range cook top should have a maximum
    height of 34".
  • The cooking range-oven combination should
    be drop-in type that will allow for the required toe
    space. All controls should be on the front. Where
    separate cooking surfaces and oven are used, all controls
    should be on the side or front. The tope of the oven
    housing should not exceed 52" in height from the
  • A tilted mirror above the stove for pot
    watching should be installed.
  • There should be at least a 5′ by 5′ clear
    area within the kitchen for wheelchair maneuverability.
  • Kitchen sink
    • Maximum height should be
    • Knee space beneath should be at
      least 3′ wide and 27" high.
    • Pipes should be insulated.
    • Faucet should be easy to operate (eg. Delta ®lever type). Avoid
      faucets that require a ‘pulling out’ action
    • Sink depth should not exceed 6
      and 1/2". Faucets and sprayer may be placed
      at the side of the sink.
  • Some manufacturers make refrigerators
    with sliding shelves. Self-defrosting and
    "Frost-Free" refrigerators are easier for


  • Exit doors from bedroom to outside should
    exist (for fire safety).
  • One clear area (best in front of closet)
    measuring at least 5′ by 5′ should exist for wheelchair
  • One side of the bed should have at least
    31" of clear space.
  • Placing a nightstand (or bedside table)
    on rollers will ease the task of making the bed.


  • Adjustable shelving made out of vinyl
    coated wire is widely available and not very expensive.
    It can make it easy to adapt the storage space to the
    needs/desires of an individual.
  • Hanging rod height should be no greater
    than 5′.
  • Stacking shelves with rollers are
    available commercially.
  • Shelving in general should have a maximum
    height of 54" and maximum depth of 16".


  • Lavatory or vanity
    • Maximum height should be 34"
    • Knee space beneath should be at
      least 27" high and 36" wide and extend
      27" from the wall.
    • All exposed water supply or drain
      lines should be concealed or insulated to prevent
    • Exposed edges of vanity should be
      rounded or beveled.
    • Single-lever faucet controls are
      best – avoid levers which require initial pull to
    • Mirror above lavatory should be
      tilted or lowered. If flat mirror is used, bottom
      edge should be no greater than 36" from
  • A minimum of 5′ clear space for
    wheelchair maneuvering is desirable.
  • Flooring/surfaces should be non-slip type
    in both wet and dry conditions.
  • A hygiene table may be made if the
    bathroom can not be made accessible.
  • Offset controls to bathtub for
  • Consider installing a telephone extension
    in the bathroom (to facilitate ability to summon
    assistance if necessary).
  • Toilet
    • Fixture or seat should be raised.
    • A horizontal grab bar should be
      anchored adjacent to the toilet at a height of
      about 33".
    • When lavatory and toilet are
      against the same wall, there should be a minimum
      of 4′ between centerline of toilet and edge of
      lavatory (to accommodate parallel transfers).
  • Roll-in Shower Stall
    • There should be no curb or
      threshold at the entrance.
    • While a person in a wheelchair
      can get into a 30" X 60" space, the
      water from the shower cannot be contained in this
      small space. When installing a roll-in shower, it
      is best to waterproof and tile the entire room
      and slope the floor to the shower drain so that
      the floor area acts as part of the shower.
    • Roll-in showers are best made
      deeper than 30" to provide enough room for
      wheelchair, shower curtain and elbow room. (A
      depth of 42" is desirable.)
    • Curtains will help contain water
      in the stall.
    • Controls should be no higher than
    • Thermostatic controls should be
      installed to avoid sudden change in water
    • Flexible hose and hand held
      shower head should be installed.
    • Horizontal grab bars of 1 and
      1/2" diameter and capable of bearing most of
      individual’s weight should be installed on each
      interior wall of the shower at a height of approximately 2’9".


  • Carpeting should be low pile, close knit.
  • Mirrors should be 48" from floor.
  • Light switches should be 42" from
    floor (rocker type switches are widely available and very
    easy to operate. Models which have a built in light are
    easily seen in low light conditions).
  • Hallways should be at least 36"
    (obstruction-free) and ideally would be 42". There
    should be 18 to 24" to side of any in-swinging door.
  • Garage or carport should have a 5′ wide
    clear area on one side of the car’s space. There should
    be a 4′ passageway in front or behind the car’s space. An
    electric garage door opener should be considered.
  • Smoke detectors should be installed on
    each level of the home. They should be tested
    periodically (per manufacturers directions).
  • In homes which heat using gas, propane or
    oil, consider placement of carbon monoxide detector/alarm
    within the main living space.