Things to Remember When Inviting A Wheelchair User To Your Home

One of my desires for 2015 is to have more human interaction — good, old-fashioned talk over a beverage at a table.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you guys (y’all know I do), I just want to regain those invaluable face-to-face moments too.  But as much as I’d like to visit more of my friends in their homes, there are so many obstacles that get in the way.  Although they’re not all insurmountable, many non-wheelers have no clue about what could be devastating for me.

So before you send the invitations to your Scandal viewing party, here are some things to consider for your friends on wheels:

1. The Entryway.  The first point to consider when a wheeler comes to your home is simply getting in.  Of course, I wish all homes had what architects and realtors call a zero step entry (that’s where a wheeler literally just rolls right into your home).  But those are mostly found in older, rambler homes or homes that have been designed with universal design or “aging in place” in mind.

Zero step entry (Source: Bachmanbuilders.com)

Without a zero step entry, simply having a doorway at least 32″ wide may work.  There are other accessible options to enter the home including ramps and lifts, but most folks don’t have it unless someone in the house needs it.  So if you have steps, understand that we have a few options:

  • Pull me up, Scotty – A friend can use the wheelchair push handles to pull the wheeler backwards up the steps.  Not an easy task for a single person.

  • Bump and Grind – If you have a few steps that have ample space (landing) for the wheels to rest, the wheeler can grind it out by popping a  wheelie and pushing the chair up on the step while a friend lifts the push handles to “bump” them on the step.  Some wheelers with strong triceps can do this alone.

  • Cash and Carry – For no cash, two people can carry the wheeler up the steps in his/her chair: one in the front, one in the back.  Easy peasy.

2. The Bathroom.  Like your main exterior door, your ground-level bathroom doorway needs to be wide enough for a wheelchair to enter.  Most wheelchairs are about 27″ wide (manual and power chairs), but a 32″ doorway will give a wheeler enough room to get in.  When inside, less is best. Wheelers need space to move around with a 5-foot diameter.  In other words, one should be able to comfortably dance to The Sugarhill Gang’s Apache…turn and all.

If it’s an overnight visit, think ahead about shower possibilities. Do you have a roll-in shower? Oooh…bless you.  If not, a portable transfer bench will usually do the trick with a standard tub/shower setup.  They’re pretty easy to find and simple to store away.

e6c8d46c-ba75-49bd-92cb-4462ef8a226a_1000A transfer bench can make a standard bathroom more accessible. (Source: Homedepot.com)

3. The Fun.  Make sure that all of your planned activities are also accessible.  Keep the floors as clear as possible to give wheelers the freedom to move around your home.  Be mindful of area rugs that can get trapped in the wheels.  And while it may be cool for everyone to head to the basement for the after party, wheelers want to join the fun too.  If your home is not equipped with an elevator, be sure that you have careful, strong people that can lift your guest on wheels and that the wheeler is comfortable with taking the ride.

If you keep these nuggets in mind when organizing your next soiree, all of your guests will be sure to have a good time.  Cheers!

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  • zebra83

    Thank you for this! Just bought a one level house that is still, frustratingly, not accessible, (although at least it has a zero step entry!) and this is super helpful for thinking about how to adapt it for a friend in a wheelchair.