Sunday, August 5, 2012

New Series: Our (Kind Of) Accessible Apartment

One question I get a lot is what kind of modifications have we made to our home to make it wheelchair accessible.

The answer: Not much. Our apartment is not very different from the apartment next door.  Our apartment is also far from "fully accessible."  But it works for us, right now, at this point in our lives.

Over the next several weeks, I'll give you a tour of our place, and the little things we've done to make it kind of accessible.

This is where we live:
It's a two bedroom apartment. We are on the first floor, obviously.  
Our building doesn't have an elevator. But, even if it did, I would still prefer to live on the first floor. Mainly because if there is a fire, I'd prefer for my husband to get out alive, and without an escape plan that would involve me rolling him down steps, then rolling his wheelchair down steps. I'm thinking that would not end well.  Plus, I've lived on higher floors before and the whole up and down the stairs with groceries thing is not great.

First up: the floor
The most obvious difference between our apartment and the apartment next door is the floor. We filled out a form in the office called a "request for a reasonable modification." It's an ADA form. Then, we had the maintenance guys pull up the carpet, then THANK GOD some good friends came and helped us chip up all the glue on the floor, and glue down these linoleum tiles one-by-one. They are one square foot each, and our place is 1200 square feet!! Our friend Joe measured and cut all of the squares that were on the corners and edges. We got these tiles at Home Depot for 33 cents a square. We've been here two years, and I'd say it's held up very well.

Insider secret: We didn't do the floors in the closets.

One other thing we had the apartment complex do to make our place accessible was to replace all of the doorknobs with handles.
This is the inside of our front door. You can see the handle instead of a knob.  We hung a rope on the doorknob. Actually, I believe it's technically a "bed ladder." Michael uses this to open the front door. He pulls up to it, pulls the rope up to his mouth, holds it with his teeth, pushes the door handle down, and pulls, backing up.  It's definitely not a graceful process, but it works, and he can get out independently.  On the way in, it's easier. He just jiggles the handle down, and pushes forward and his feet push the door open.

Side note: You can see the dog leashes hanging there. Note the chain collars. This is brilliant! For these collars, all you have to do is loop the chain through the circle, then put it around the dogs' necks. So, you never have to pinch anything. This makes it possible for Michael to walk the dogs independently. Hallelujah!
Side note #2: If you are going to be living with a wheelchair in your house, you're going to have to give up having/liking/wanting clean walls. Because it's not going to happen. Even if you use 4 magic erasers every Saturday. Trust me. By Monday, they're smudgy again. I suggest just not looking down, then magic erasing shortly before your mother comes to visit.

My plan is to take you through our home and show you more of these little things. If you'd like to share tips and things you do in your home along the way, please do! You can e-mail me pictures to Or, feel free to share them on our Facebook page.


gentrier said...

Totally get the nice walls thing:)

Anonymous said...

I had to smile with the bit about the walls, my daughter Kelly has the same problem with the floors, her husband Nate drags in all kinds of leaves and sand, he's a real out doors guy and his chair shows it!Its a good thing we love him,ha ha, You have a lovely building,

Janice said...

Lol we can relate to the walls... And smudged glass doors!! Not looking down is the perfect advice! Lol

Dana Brown Ritter said...

Oh yeah! :)

Dana Brown Ritter said...

Hi Laurie! Is your daughter Kelly Jones? I just posted about her and Nate on our Facebook page today! Small world!

Dana Brown Ritter said...

It's either don't look down, or cover their wheelchairs with Nerf foam! Haha.