The ultimate guide to organizing your home for your child with disabilities
When your child has a disability, the typical house layout may not be the best environment for him or her to thrive. An ideal home will use modifications to not just protect your child from accidents or injury, but also to focus on their abilities so they can enjoy living and playing in their home just like any other child.
When you have a child with a disability, you’ll look at your house from a different perspective. You have to keep your eyes open for potential roadblocks. For example, if your child uses a wheelchair and you have a steep flight of stairs to the front door, then not only getting around your home, but also simply getting into your house, may be nearly impossible. That’s why organizing your home to create the least restrictive environment is the number one way to stimulate your child, while keeping them safe and helping them feel included. This guide will help you:
- Organize the medical equipment in your home
- Adapt your house for a child with a visual impairment
- Modify rooms for a child in a wheelchair
Organizing the medical equipment in your home
If your child has a physical disability that requires various medical equipment, you will have to organize your home in a way that keeps those adaptations handy, without getting in the way. This is especially important in living areas shared by other family members, as well as in your child’s bedroom. Your child should have the freedom to focus on play, not constantly be reminded of their medical needs. Here are some things to consider when organizing medical equipment in the home:
- Store medical supplies safely and securely. Keep your medical supplies and equipment in an area where you can access them easily, but so they won’t get in the way of your day-to-day life.
- Add power options like extra outlets to keep your child’s medical equipment at full power and so you don’t have to limit the rooms or areas where the equipment can be used.
- Store equipment according to priority. You may need a number of pieces of equipment, but not all at the same time. Equipment that is immediate, life-sustaining or that gives your child mobility should be kept at hand, but other pieces or older pieces can be put in storage when your child doesn’t need them. This way, you’ll still have access to them when they’re needed.
- Install a generator to ensure your child’s medical needs are met during a power outage. A backup generator can give you power regardless of weather or outages, so your child’s critical equipment is always ready and on hand.
Be sure that you or your child has easy, quick access to equipment that is a priority, used often, or is ideal in emergencies. While you want to stay organized, you also need to be prepared. That being said, medical equipment can not only get in the way or pile up, but it can also make your surroundings feel more like a hospital than a home. Storing equipment and keeping these items organized will help your child feel more at home in your house.
Adapting your house for a child with a visual impairment
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When you have low vision, partial blindness or total blindness, navigating a home can be an overwhelming and daunting chore. This can be even more complex for a child, who is still learning how to explore and understand the world in general. A child with severe vision impairment needs a home that is safe and secure, but also inviting and engaging. You can tackle this challenge room-by-room, making sure that your child has access to all of the same areas — and experiences — as any other child.
Adaptations for the bedroom
- Arrange furniture so that obstructions in main areas and pathways are limited.
- Organize electrical cords by taping them down, coiling them up or storing them under furniture.
- Categorize your child’s belongings so they can find them by feel. For example, organize clothes by using textured hangers or ribbons tied to hangers.
Adaptations for living areas
- Keep clutter picked up so all paths stay clear to prevent trips and falls.
- Remove or add padding to lower objects, like coffee tables and footstools.
- Make sure the edges of rugs are taped down, and use non-skid padding.
- Use textured paint and tape to help your child identify objects.
Adaptations for the bathroom
- Install grab bars or handrails.
- Use a non-slip rug on the floor.
- Use contrasting colors to help your child locate the sink, toilet, towels and rugs.
- Store liquid bath products in non-spilling pump dispensers.
- Install additional or brighter lighting.
Adaptations for the kitchen
- Create a snack drawer where your child can easily access healthy treats.
- Keep cleansers, knives and other potentially hazardous objects locked in cabinets that are placed out of reach in high areas.
- Use tactile markings like texture tape to help your child identify water and other drinks.
The overall goal is to organize your home so that your child can find what they need and move around safely, without falling, tripping or getting confused. Be sure to think ahead. A toddler with a vision impairment has a different level of experience than a teenager. If there are pieces of furniture that are dangerous now, like the oriental rugs you inherited last year, consider putting them in storage until the time is right to introduce them to your child’s world.
Modify rooms for a child in a wheelchair
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When your child is in a wheelchair, your home can become an obstacle course in ways you honestly couldn’t have predicted. It’s important to create a safe space for your child to explore their abilities without being limited by their mobility issues. Here are a few ways to make your home more wheelchair-friendly.
Modifications for the entrance
- Have at least one entrance with no steps.
- Give enough space for a wheelchair to be able to turn around.
- Install a ramp leading into the home.
- Keep everything well-lit.
Modifications for the bathroom
- Install a roll-in shower.
- Install handrails next to the shower, tub and toilet.
- Add non-slick seating in the shower or bathtub.
- Make sure the water controls are within reach.
Modifications in the kitchen
- Adjust at least one counter to be wheelchair height.
- Install adjustable counters that allow for knee space.
- Make sure there is enough room to turn around.
Don’t forget the extras! Your child deserves to have a vibrant, boisterous childhood just like any other child. Even things that seem impossible can be achievable with creative thinking and the right modifications. You can design a wheelchair-friendly tree house, smoothly pave a backyard basketball court, or build a game room with games like pool and foosball that are wheelchair height. The potential modifications are endless, making accessibility possible in almost any situation.
Making your current home or a new one more accessible may seem like a daunting task at first, but seeing the benefits will keep you focused. Not only will organizing your home for a child with a disability help your child learn how to better navigate the world, but be able to do it with confidence.