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Entrances, Exits and Doorways
Of course getting in and out of your front door is the first and most important consideration. If you can get through all doors, interior and exterior, plus the bathroom door, you're well on your way. Most of us have to make the most of what we already have, so unless you're building a brand new home, modifying existing doorways to make more room is the easiest solution for wheelchair accessibility. Here are some guidelines:
A doorway must be at least 36 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair, allowing room for arms and maneuvering.
Several things can make a doorway wider without removing the doorframe. Start by replacing regular hinges with Swing Clear hinges to add another 1.5 - 2 inches to the doorway. (Ask for them at larger hardware centers or click here for a resource.
Doorstops can be removed, as well as thick thresholds that are difficult to roll over.
In some places, it may be necessary to remove the door altogether, including its hinges. Typically bathroom doors are the narrowest; a curtain or decorative screen will provide privacy, as well as access to the room.
Locks on doors can be lowered for a person in a wheelchair to comfortably reach them.
If manual dexterity is a problem, a lever is much easier to use than a regular doorknob.
Better yet, install an electromagnetic automatic door opener. Automatic door openers can be used with all door types, including sliding or swinging doors and they do lock.
Avoid thick doormats, like the contemporary bristly-style mats. Children trip over them and they're hazardous to persons with walking difficulties or visual impairments. They're particularly difficult for a wheelchair to roll over. A thin, rubber mat is safer and still traps some dirt and moisture. Once inside, thinner carpeting (even indoor/outdoor carpeting), tiles, hardwood or linoleum is easiest for wheelchair maneuverability.
A view panel installed in the door (away from the lock) provides a couple of safety features: it allows a person with a hearing loss to visually identify visitors, and from the outside, warns approaching persons to slow down when they see a seated person just inside the door.
Video doorbells used with your cordless answering system provide security. The doorbell sends a photo to your handset. You deicide if you want to speak to the visitor outside your door.