Your home is your sanctuary, so you want it to be safe, comfortable and easy to get around in. If you or a family member has a disability or limitation, it’s important to put together a safe home that’s designed with your needs in mind. Home security systems and medical alert equipment are a great start for keeping you and your family safe. We’ve also put together a few home safety tips for people with disabilities to help ensure your home is secure and accessible.
Home Safety Tips for People With Disabilities
1. Get a Home Inspection
You can ask your local police or fire department for a home inspection. They can offer advice on safety updates you should make, tips for how to adjust your daily habits, and further resources for potential help. Most local fire departments offer these inspections for free, and some cities have programs that help fund accessibility additions, such as grab bars and ramps. Be sure to ask what programs your city or state has in place.
2. Make Your Home Accessible
Before you start any remodeling projects (or even if you’re not remodeling), consult a physical or occupational therapist and ask for a home visit. These professionals can help you make your home more accessible by letting you know where to install grab bars, wider doorways, ramps and updated flooring for better wheelchair compatibility.
3. Have an Evacuation Plan
You should always have an evacuation plan in case of emergency. Know where your exits are; keep fire extinguishers accessible and fresh; and maintain fire alarms, environmental sensors and security alarm equipment. Periodically run through the procedures for putting out small fires, calling 911 and getting out of the house when necessary. In case of fire or intrusion, you may need to use an alternative exit. Make sure you have the necessities, like shoes, clothes and medications, easily accessible and ready to go if you have to leave quickly.
4. Set Reminders to Turn Off Kitchen Appliances
Fires are often started by kitchen appliances that are left on. When you leave the house, be sure to check these potentially hazardous appliances. You can use your phone or smart assistant to set reminders to check appliances before leaving or going to bed. For a low-tech alternative, try a permanent note near the bed, in the kitchen, near a light switch or on your computer.
5. Don’t Let Strangers in Your Yome
If you don’t know someone and you haven’t invited them, you shouldn’t let them in. If someone shows up unexpectedly, don’t open the door to find out who it is. Instead, use eye-level, wide-angle peepholes or a video doorbell. Video doorbells have the added benefit of letting you check the door remotely, talk to the person at the door, record video and sometimes even set up prerecorded messages to play when someone is at the door.
6. Don’t Broadcast Disabilities
Bad guys look for vulnerabilities, so it’s a good idea not to advertise your disability more than necessary. Consider painting outdoor ramps to blend in with surroundings and use removable handicapped placards for your cars if they sit outside. Parking inside the garage and entering the house from there also prevents lurkers from learning about your disability.
7. Make Your Kitchen Accessible
In most homes, the kitchen is the center of activity. If necessary, widen the gap between your kitchen island and other counters, lower your countertops and stovetops, use front-facing, push-button or knob oven controls, add pot-filling stations, use non-slip flooring, and take any other safety and comfort measures that will help you get around easily and safely in the kitchen.
8. Reduce Fall Risk by Properly Organizing Cables
Keep electrical cords and other cables away from high-traffic areas and properly tied and organized. Cords can present a trip hazard or get tangled in wheelchair wheels. Even cable hanging off tables or bunched up on desks can cause problems. Keep power, audio, video and other cabling stored where they can’t get in the way and cause harm.
9. Consider Smart Home Equipment
Consider smart home automation equipment such as smart locks and electronic doors to make your home safer and more accessible. Most of these devices can be controlled with your smartphone and/or an assistant such as Google Assistant or Alexa. Even though features such as electronic doors can be costly up front, they can save a lot of trouble in the long run. Other smart devices such as lights, garage door openers and thermostats can save time, trouble and money.
Sources and Resources
Because accuracy and reliability is our number one priority, Safety.com only uses reputable sources for gathering information. When it comes to home safety and accessibility for individuals who are disabled or differently abled, we turned to sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SafeHome.org, California’s Department of Social Services and the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Product and pricing data on our resource pages, such as the 10 Best Home Security Systems of 2020, comes directly from manufacturers and service providers and is updated when these companies make changes.