Making Your Home Wheelchair Accessible

There are several ways to create a more accessible space for a person in a wheelchair. Some options include: altering an existing floor plan, building an addition, converting existing rooms, or buying a new home. The following guidelines will be helpful to anyone planning for wheelchair accessible housing.
Always measure the width and length of your wheelchair since there are many different sizes. The dimensions listed below refer to standard wheelchairs. Owners of power and reclining models may need to modify the measurements based on the length and width of the chair. It is important to identify specific needs.

Entrance and Exit

Parking: If you use a garage, make sure the entrance is high enough for a raised roof van and wide enough to allow the use of a wheelchair lift or to make an easy wheelchair transfer. Approximately eight feet is needed for a wheelchair lift and five feet of space is needed for a transfer from the wheelchair.

Illustration of optimal parking space dimensions–cars/vans

Specifications for a ramp or pathway to entrance

• 36 to 48” wide pathways
• 32 to 36” high hand rails that extend 1′ beyond ramp
• Slip resistant surface (non–slip strips, indoor/outdoor carpeting, sand paint)
• Covering for inclement weather
• Ramp materials: wood, concrete expanded aluminum
• 12” of ramp for every 1” of vertical rise
• Free swinging (no spring or hydraulic mechanism)
• ½” or less threshold edge height
• Option: electric entrance door opener
• If a ramp is longer than 30 feet, it needs to change direction. With a change of direction, a level platform or landing should be used. The minimum landing size required is 5′ x 5′.
• If there is no room for a ramp and/or the ramp is too steep or unsafe, a vertical lift or elevator may be used.
• Ask your occupational therapist for information on lifts, ramps and elevators.

Interior/General Living Space

32” minimum distance between frames, although some chairs can negotiate a 28”doorway; it depends on the width of the chair.

Options to increase the width of doorways:

• Offset, Z–shaped door hinges
• Remove the frame on the door
• Remove the door itself
• Reverse the swing of the door

Illustration of optimal doorway width

KitchenTurning Radius

• 5′ x 5′ optimal

Illustration of optimal turning radius


Set Priorities before Starting a Modification Project
Most people work on the major architectural barriers first. Priority is usually: entrance, bathroom, bedroom, and then other rooms of the house. The permanence and quality of modifications depends on the needs of the person using the wheelchair and family, estimated time spent in the home, available finances, and whether the residence is being rented or owned. The following guidelines can help the modification process go more smoothly.

• To avoid over–designing, recognize your abilities and disabilities.
• Ask other people with disabilities for advice. They can refer reputable contractors and give suggestions based on personal experience.
• Know your individual needs. Analyze and operate all equipment before buying to make sure it works for you.
• Use a specialty or standard contractor.
• Try to solve problems with a minimal investment in time and money.
• Always review plans.

References:– ADA Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities. http://www.access–– Uniform Accessibility Standards. http://www.access––html/ufas.htm–Universal Design Principles and Design in Housing.
For additional information and  a list of specifications, follow the link below:

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