Did you know that 26% of Americans are classed as disabled? * That’s one in four of us! That’s a huge number. And yet before my life changed to what it is now, I can’t say that I was really aware of disabilities.
I’m ashamed that I did not give it more thought – to consider why I had never worked with someone with a disability, that I rarely saw someone with a disability when I was commuting to work in the city or been to someone’s home that had been transformed to accommodate their disability.
And yes, not all disabilities are visible but that still doesn’t excuse my lack of awareness.
Society is trying but hasn’t been great at creating a happy home and making day-to-day life easy for someone with a disability. I hope my blogs bring some level of awareness but the area I can really focus on to bring meaningful change to accommodate my new lifestyle is at home.
I have created a safe haven in my house and a happy home. These a must for people with a disability. Here are my 7 easy hacks to grant you more freedom when you have a disability.
Happy homes are important because you know you have somewhere to come back to where you can relax and unwind. The world outside is difficult when you have a disability.
A trip around town might be stressful for the average person, but when you are navigating sidewalks, narrow doorways, people bustling around without heeding someone in a wheelchair like myself, it’s so tiring and can even become very upsetting.
Once it became clear that I was going to have to make major changes to how I lived I revamped my house and every change has been so worth the effort. Hopefully, some of these will be useful to you too:
I made my happy home more accessible
If you have ever done any DIY yourself you’ll know how crazily expensive it is to hang doors. So, it was with a heavy heart that I had to redo the many doors in my house, but there was no way around it.
Some I could replace with offset hinges, which helped swing the door clear of the opening and so inexpensively added a couple of inches of space. In other instances, I just left open frames (no doors or door handles to contend with, yippee!). And then there were the few which had to be rebuilt – the bathroom being an obvious one.
Ramps and lifts
Remove all steps in the house, or add a lift. Ramps help more people than just those with wheelchairs. They make it accessible for those with other mobility issues and the elderly too. Adding a ramp can be a quick job in some instances. Any modifications outside should be checked with your local planning department, as permission may need to be granted.
If your house is more than just the ground floor, you might consider getting a lift built in to give you access to the upper stories. They take up a lot of space though. I have found living all on one floor fine. I don’t really miss not going upstairs that much.
The toilet riser
You can buy toilet risers. Yup, I’d never heard of a thing like that before either! It’s funny how you go about life not knowing about so many things, but boy did this rock my day when I got it. It definitely made mine a happy home.
The bathroom is not somewhere where you want to slip… with, literally, your pants down! And considering what I have just said, they are quite a dangerous spot for slipping. Tiled floors and wetness from the shower or sink mean bathrooms are not a nice place to be for the less sure-footed.
It was hard enough trying to pull myself into position to get onto the toilet, heavily relying on my arms, as my legs became weaker and weaker, but having to drop down onto the toilet just made things a lot more challenging. The toilet riser is no feat of engineering, just a simple, but very clever idea. It’s like a really thick toilet seat, and it brought things more level to my height, which was fantastic!
Get more tips on making your happy home more wheelchair-friendly.
Grab bars made me feel safer
Some of the modifications I made to my house were for functional reasons – so I could get around more easily, into different rooms, and so on. Adding grab bars is very much a safety aspect (it helped me navigate the hallway or move around the bathroom better) but they also just made me feel safer. There was literally a crutch I could lean on if I fell or needed to rest and hold on to.
You see, there have been many occasions when I felt that it was all just becoming too much. I would suddenly feel overwhelmed, incredibly depressed and my anxiety would build and build. I just collapsed once – I felt so mentally defeated that my body decided to give up too.
I have great ideas for self care which made sure I didn’t get into a bad situation. If you can relate, my blog about dealing with anxiety and panic attacks is a must read for you.
Touch lamps removed the need for switches
Touch lamps are cool, no matter what! I have had them for years and didn’t realize how ergonomic they were for someone like me, with limbs that weren’t doing as instructed by the brain. Touch any part of the metal stand and ping! On or off they go. (I am easily pleased, chuckle!).
I have an in-home gym
Going to the gym is not really possible anymore. Instead, I bought myself a resistance exercise bike. It is brilliant. It is quite small so doesn’t take up half a room in my house. I can place it on the table and work my arms, or on the floor and work my legs.
This gives me the freedom to continue with my training regime outside of my regular physio classes. Doing my workouts gives me an adrenaline boost and helps lift my mood.
My secret stash of safety pins keep me smartly dressed all day
Not having the power to turn around properly, reach behind or tuck my shirt back in means that as my clothes are pulled in all directions from sitting in a wheelchair I would look a disheveled mess were it not for this clever hack.
I attach key parts of my clothing (shirt to trousers, trouser legs to socks, and so on) with safety pins. I tuck them far out of sight, so no one realizes what is going on. And it works well. You just might need someone to help you get dressed and undressed; or I did, anyway.
Dealing with a disability is challenging enough, but society makes it so much more difficult. Everyone is rushing around and it is hard trying to keep up. Self care has been incredibly important in retaining my focus, making me happy and feeling at ease.
Kitchen utensils that let me still feel like the chef at home
I love cooking. I also love all the clever gadgets that have made it to market that help people with all sorts of disabilities. RehabMart has a long list of kitchen utensils, suitable to varying circumstances. It’s not the prettiest website, but have a browse through and you are likely to find your dream gadget.
Items I rely a lot on at home are these three:
This ingenious gadget is just a plastic bowl with slits cut through; it looks a little like a colander. You pile your salad onto a chopping board, place the bowl over it and then draw the knife through the slits. It’s really helpful to someone with limited dexterity or who fatigues easily.
Plastic bags with handles are an easy way to grab something from the fridge. I lost the ability to grip plates, Tupperware containers, or the like a long time ago. I can, however, still feed my wrist through the looped handle of a plastic bag.
I choose durable bags, which I stick into the dishwasher to clean and so I can reuse them too. This gives me the freedom to be my own person in the kitchen (to an extent). It’s one less task I need someone else to rely on to get done.
I try to stay clear of hot water when I can these days, but still love a warm drink in the evenings, or being able to make tea and coffee for guests.
The kettle sits on a stand that carries the weight. You can tip it forwards to pour. The handle is designed to be easy to grip. The kettle has other clever features like lights that come on and off to tell you when it has boiled the water, automatic shut-off for protection, and so on.
Staying warm requires more than my internal metabolism
Not moving around much means I get cold easily. You are unlikely to see me without an extra blanket or my electric hot water bottle. Boiling water is something I am a bit scared of these days. I just don’t have the strength to hold the kettle and pour the water carefully into the mouth of the bottle. This electric hot water bottle just needs plugging into the mains and 15 minutes later it is good to go. Fantastic!
I don’t need anyone’s help and it also has a snug compartment where I can slide my hands in for warmth.
This article has only skimmed the surface of my hacks for life with a disability and creating happy homes. Every day I come across something new that makes things easier and more fun!!
I love sharing all my ideas, so please get in touch if you want to share yours or ask me about my circumstances. All the best and have fun creating your happy home!