We want our homes to be safe, relaxing, and comfortable for our children. Fortunately we have more control over things in our own homes than we do in the outside world.
If your child has a disability or special health care needs, creating a safe, comfortable home might take some special modifications. Maybe your child needs to be able to move through your home in a wheelchair. Maybe they need a way to get themselves up and down stairs safely. Maybe they need easy-to-turn knobs on doors and sinks. Or maybe they need a break from the overwhelming sights and sounds in the outside world.
Making your home accessible can help your child be comfortable and use your home safely. It might also give your entire family a sense of freedom and security.
The big questions are: How will I pay for changes? And what do I need to change?
Paying for Modifications
It can be expensive to modify a home. Some changes require a lot of work. Others might be standard on a newer home.
Here are some ideas to get help paying for them:
What If I Don’t Own My Home?
- You don’t have to own your own home to make modifications. The Fair Housing Act, passed in 1988, says that a landlord can’t even ask about your child’s disability or special health care needs and that you are allowed to make reasonable modifications to your rented home.
- But, in Texas, you’re the one who’s expected to pay for it. Your landlord might ask you to put money into an account to reverse the modifications to their original state when you leave. However, by the rules of the Fair Housing Act, you shouldn’t have to change anything if your modifications won’t get in the way of the next renter (like reinforcing a wall or widening a door).
- If you think your landlord isn’t being fair or working with you in the right way, you can file a legal complaint.
How Do I Make My Home Wheelchair Accessible?
There are a number of modifications that can make a home wheelchair accessible. They range from the location of electrical sockets to the design of sinks and showers, to reinforcing walls with support bars or lifts.
Here are some standards for home design:
Creating a Friendly Home for a Child With Sensory Issues
- If your child is fascinated by things you don’t want them to touch, consider putting those things where your child can’t find them for a while, until they lose interest.
- Put very few things up on your walls.
- Minimize florescent lighting.
- Notice the colors your child pays the most attention to, and use those colors when you really want your child to pay attention to something. For example, you could decorate your home with very neutral colors, but use plates in their favorite color to make eating more interesting. Use learning toys with bright colors. Or pick a more exciting color for a comforting blanket or special stuffed animal.
- Run the dishwasher, vacuum, or other loud appliances after your child is asleep.
- Turn off music or the television when it is just background noise and not your child’s main focus.
- Think about using sound-reducing materials in places where you spend a lot of time.
Tips for Modification Planning, Supplies, and Contractors
- Connect with other parents to see where they have gotten modification supplies and whom they’ve hired.
- When you talk to a contractor, ask about other modification projects they’ve done, ask for references, and get a clear timeline – along with a quote for how much the work will cost.
- If you rent, try working with your landlord to find a contractor. They might have a handyman or contractor they use regularly or might want to oversee the work to be sure it’s done well.
- Search the Internet for companies that sell medical equipment. Read reviews before you order anything.
- Consider buying used equipment like hover lifts. Someone might have only used it for a short time, and gently used equipment should work just fine.