How to Design a House for Physically Disabled People

Designing a house for a physically disabled person doesn't mean that it has to look like a hospital. Although function has to be the most important feature, there are many adjustments that can be made to make life easier while still retaining a stylish finish.


Depending on whether the resident is in a wheelchair, an access ramp is one option. Ensure that the ramp is not too steep for a wheelchair user to get up unassisted and that the material underfoot will not become slippery when wet. The ramp should also have a landing at the top and bottom to provide a secure resting point. Another option for a person with a walking stick would be to have grab bars and hand rails at any areas with steps.


The front door and all internal doorways should be sufficiently wide to accommodate a wheelchair. The recommended width is 34-36 inches. If it is not possible to widen the doorway, an alternate option is to install doors with swing-away hinges to gain an extra few inches of width.

All locks should be placed at between 3 and 4 feet from the floor. The same is true of any plugs, switches and alarms. A basket on the back of the front door to catch any mail can be helpful but ensure that it doesn't prevent the door from opening fully. A shelf at the side of the doorway can also provide a useful place to put packages when locking or unlocking the door.


A roll-in shower with a hand held attachment is an excellent option in the bathroom. If you prefer a bathtub, grab bars are essential. The bars must be able to support 250 lbs of pressure and be attached securely to a stud or some additional blocking in the wall.

A counter top style sink can provide support and accessible storage for a wheelchair user. If the bathroom has a standard sink it should have additional supports installed underneath so that it won't come away from the wall if leaned on heavily. The toilet should also have grab bars attached to the wall at one side. If no wall is available then an L-shaped bar can be installed using the floor and back wall as fixing points. An elevated toilet seat is also required. Depending on the household requirements either portable or permanent attachments are available.


The kitchen cabinets should be 30 inches high and the minimum clearance should be 40 inches. Removing base cabinet doors can allow a wheelchair user to roll up to a counter for easier food preparation. Pull-out cutting boards can also serve this purpose. At the sink area, the cabinet doors can also be removed for more comfortable access but ensure that insulation is placed over the hot water pipes to prevent burns. The placement of utensils and food should also be planned to make their use as easy as possible. Installing a lazy Susan inside cupboards and the refrigerator can help to maximize storage, without making items difficult to reach.