According to the latest census information, more than 56 million people in the United States have some type of disability, and 8% of children under the age of 15 suffer with a disability. Home should be a comfortable, relaxing, and safe place for children with disabilities. However, when children have special health-care needs or disabilities, it may take some modifications to make the home environment safe and comfortable. Your child may need extra space to maneuver through the house in a wheelchair. Perhaps your child needs door knobs to be easy-to-turn, or your child could need a way to deal with stairs safely. Making home modifications to make the home accessible not only helps your child, but it will give the whole family a greater sense of security and freedom.
Financing Home Modifications
One of the big questions many families have before they get started with home modifications is: How do I pay for these changes? While some modifications may be easy and low cost, some home modifications require a lot of work and a significant amount of money. Here’s a look at some of the resources that may help you finance home modifications for your child with disabilities.
Medicaid Waiver Programs
If your child is receiving assistance from the Medicaid waiver program, some funds may be available to help you pay for home modifications. Community-based and home programs are generally designed to help with the modification of existing homes, not new construction.
USDA Rural Housing Home Repair Grant and Loan Program
Both grants and loans are available to homeowners with low income to help with the repairs, modernization, or improvement of homes or to help eliminate safety and health hazards. Grants may be as much as $7,500 to help with the cost of safety hazard removal or home repairs and low interest loans are available up to $20,000.
If you’re making home modifications because of a child’s medical needs, you may be able to deduct the costs from your taxes.
Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit, offers free home repairs and home modifications for individuals who have disabilities.
Christmas in Action
Another nonprofit is Christmas in Action, which is a volunteer program that offers home modifications and repairs for individuals with special healthcare needs or disabilities within the community.
Center for Independent Living
Find out of you have a local Center for Independent Living in your community. These center work to help individuals create independent living environments for those with disabilities, and they offer financial aid and other helpful programs you may find valuable.
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When You Don’t Own the Home
What if you don’t own your own home? Even if you’re renting, you still have the option to make some home modifications. Your landlord cannot ask about the special needs or disabilities of your child according to the Fair Housing Act, which was passed back in 1988. This act also allows you to make modifications within reason to a rented home. However, in many states, you will need to pay for these modifications yourself.
As long as the modifications won’t be a problem for the next lender, you won’t need to change these modifications. However, if modifications will present a problem for someone else, you may need to put money into an account for your landlord to reverse modifications once you leave the rental. If at any point you don’t feel your landlord is working with you or being accommodating to your child’s disabilities, you can file a legal complaint.
Common Accessibility Problems and Helpful Adaptations
Some modifications may be very simple solutions that can be taken care of on your own. Other accessibility problems may require more involved solutions. The exact modifications needed will depend upon your child’s specific condition and limitations, but every area of the home can be outfitted for convenience, safety, and easy access. Here’s a look at some of the most common accessibility problems and helpful adaptations to solve them.
Problem: Narrow Doors
Solution: If your child is in a wheelchair or uses other assistive devices for mobility, such as a walker, narrow doors may make it difficult to navigate through the home. Widening the doorway can help, as can swinging a door in the opposite direction or installing special hinges.
Problem: Round Knob Hardware and Fixtures
Solution: Since round knobs on doors or fixtures can be tough to grip for children with disabilities, replacing them with handle or lever style handles can help.
Problem: Standard Fire Alarms
Solution: If your child has a hearing disability, they won’t be able to hear a standard fire alarm if there’s a fire in the home. Installing a visual alarm system that goes off when the standard fire alarm does can improve fire safety within the home.
Problem: Stairs Indoors and Outdoors
Solution: For a child with mobility challenges, stairs, both indoors and outdoors, can pose a problem. Outdoors you may want to consider adding a ramp for entrance and egress from the home. Inside the home you can install a chair lift to make it easy to navigate stairs.
Problem: Bathroom Safety
Solution: The bathroom can always pose a safety risk for individuals with disabilities. You can make changes to the bathroom with your child’s unique needs in mind. This may include raising or lowering the seat height of the toilet, installing grab bars to prevent falls, and adding adaptive shower or bathtub aids for easy bathing.
Other Helpful Modifications if your Child Has Disabilities:
- Lowering light switches and security keypads so your child is able to reach them
- Installing hard flooring or low pile carpeting for easier navigation
- Lowering countertops
- Walk-in showers or bathtubs
- Widening hallways
- Making bedroom closets accessible by lowering hanging rods and shelves
- Adding storage solutions for medical supplies
- Installing additional outlets to power medical equipment
- Consider the installation of a generator to power life-sustaining medical equipment
If you need help determining what modifications can best help your child, considering asking your child’s occupational or physical therapist for suggestions on home modifications and adaptive equipment. Remember that your child’s current needs and future needs should be taken into consideration when you’re deciding on modifications for your home. An experienced home modification contractor may also have helpful suggestions.
Tips and Modifications for Children with Sensory Issues
More and more children today deal with disabilities that result in sensory issues, and these disabilities may include autism, Asperger’s, autism spectrum disorder, and sensory processing disorder. A few tips you can use to make your home more comfortable for your child with sensory issues include:
- Eliminate florescent lighting from the home.
- Keep very few items up on the walls.
- Pay attention to the colors your child likes the most.
- Consider using sound-reducing materials
- Have a Dedicated Playroom
This harsh lighting may disturb children with sensory issues. Instead, focus on modifications that allow more natural light into the home and use soft lighting throughout the home.
Too many things on the walls can overstimulate a child who has sensory problems. Reduce clutter in the home and avoid a busy environment, which can be difficult for a child with sensory issues.
Use the colors to accent things around the home you want your child to pay attention to. If your child has an aversion to certain colors, avoid them in your home.
You can use these in areas of the home where your child spends a significant amount of time. Since your child may be sensitive to sounds, pay attention to the amount of traffic and outdoor noise that enter the home.
Whenever possible, a dedicated playroom can be helpful to a child with sensory issues, since therapies are important to these children. The room should be designed to make it easy for your child to focus on you or a therapist and the new activities being introduced.
Know When You Should Ask for Help
It’s essential know which home modifications can be tackled on your own and when you need to ask for help from a professional. Simple projects that you can probably do on your own include replacing doorknobs with lever-style handles, installing handrails or grab bars, or even replacing flooring in the home. However, certain home modification projects require a significant amount of construction and remodeling, such as building a ramp, installing a walk-in tub, or widening doorways throughout the home.
Since you’re working to make modifications that benefit your child, you want to ensure that modifications are done with your child’s safety in mind. This means leaving certain projects to a professional who has experience with home modifications. If you need professional home modifiers to help you make your home a safer, more comfortable place for your child, contact Sage Mobility today. We understand the challenges of modifying a home for children with disabilities, and we will work with you to help your child overcome these challenges.
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