Disability Planners Rehabilitate the Home

by Marcus Pickett

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When you move into a new home it is assumed that everything is up to code. These building codes may be designed to ensure safety and offer convenience to the healthy and upper-mobile, but what do these regulations offer to those with special needs? Often a home's conventional design does not take into account the exceptionality of its residents. If you require handicap-accessible construction, but live in a standardized living arrangement, you may need to hire a disability planner who can take a pre-existing design and turn it into a customized blueprint that serves any specific need.

Rehabilitating a Home
Commonly referred to as handicap-accessible design, disability remodeling is, at its core, about matching a living space to the specific traits of a resident. Often this involves physical limitations, but these remodels may also be able to take advantage of the resident's adaptability, perseverance, among other strengths. A disability planner is trained to identify problems with the physical layout of any home, apartment, or commercial building. Once identified, these experts re-think, re-design, and re-build any inconvenient area in order to make it more suitable to the resident's needs. This process should also help a recently disabled resident reclaim a sense of normalcy for his or her life. Indeed, one can look at disability remodeling as a type of home rehabilitation that parallels the individual's larger rehabilitation path.

Disability Remodeling
There is often a stigma attached to handicap-accessible design simply for the fact that everything else in the house feels conventional except for a few glaring reminders. For instance, the entryway looks like any other front porch except for the series of zig-zag decking that leads to the door. Or the bathroom and kitchen look ordinary enough, until you use the lowered counters and widened doorways. Now, not all of these disability retrofits are unsightly, and some are absolutely necessary in order to ensure quality of life. However, a trained architect can help make these remodels look and feel invisible. A few well-placed landscaping features alone can make the entry ramps into a beautifully conceived front yard that any homeowner could be proud of. It's also worth noting that disability remodeling is, by no means, mutually exclusive from other value-added remodeling projects. Replacing carpet with hardwood flooring, for example, is a common disability remodel that is also the most universally coveted residential floor.

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Redefining Disability
When most people think about handicap-accessible design, they think about wheelchairs: ramps, widened doorways, low-pile carpet, etc. However, the term "special needs" can be applied to several things: hearing impaired, loss of vision, and even the elderly. With this broadened definition, a disability planner can include a variety of specific remodels to aid any need. How about a light-triggered phone line or doorbell? Or oversized door handles for the arthritic? Or voice activated appliances? Technology is a great way to update a house because universal design and smart-home capabilities can make life easier for anybody in the home. That said, not every disability retrofit has to be so state-of-the-art. Maybe you don't necessarily need a whirlpool in your bathroom. Instead, add a few handrails, slip-resistant tile, and a couple of additional switches. A trained designer is there to supplement your needs while still respecting your budget and keeping your house looking like a home rather than a hospital.

Disability Planner Preparation
The point behind handicap-accessible design is to force your environment to adapt to you. Its entire purpose is to provide more independence, self-reliance, and overall quality of life. However, this can't be done unless you work closely with your contractor. Therefore, before the project begins, be very specific about your needs and what you envision. Sharing frustrations, expectations, and goals is a great way to ensure a satisfying final product. The contractor should also take a tour of the home to get a better idea of the project, offer any additional advice, and attain a better estimate. After this inspection, sit down with your contractor and iron out the details, including time, cost, and any other necessities you'll need in order to live a better life.

Short-Term, In-Home Rehabilitation
Short-term, in-home rehabilitation is a horse of another color, but it can still use the services of a disability consultant. You probably won't need the comprehensive design of disability planning, but an experienced eye can point out problem areas that may hinder a home rehabilitation program as well as opportunities that might help. You might want to remodel a spare bedroom or home office into a makeshift therapy room. You might want to make a modification or two to the bathroom. Best of all, by asking for an online referral to a disability remodeling contractor today, you may very well be able to identify, plan, and complete a remodel for an in-home rehabilitation program before the resident comes home from the hospital.

Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.