MACHANICAL AND ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES

Published: June 3, 2006
133

Light Switches and Lighting

* Light switches placed at a height between 3 feet and 3 feet 6 inches; if adjacent to a door, light switch positioned horizontal to the door handle for easy in locating it; two-way light switches at staircases and hallways; no more than 2 switches per light plate
* For persons with limited hand or finger mobility, rocker action switches, light switch extenders, wireless remote control switches, cord switches, dimmer switches, timer switches, and/or pull chains are recommended
* Wall-bracket lighting, placed within easy reach, is convenient, accessible for light bulb changing, and stable when securely fastened to the wall
* Table lamps with wide bases for maximum stability, pull chains, or pressure-sensitive switches
* Fuses and circuit-breakers within easy reach
* Power strips of switches and outlets, alongside the bed to control lights, TV, stereo, radio, etc., and in the kitchen to control these items and appliances

Heating/Air Conditioning and Central Vacuum Cleaning System

* Thermostatic controls positioned at a level for easy reading and operation
* Space heating may be required in bedrooms and bathrooms
* Air conditioning is required for people with impaired lung function or breathing problems and for most quadriplegics
* Ceiling-mounted circulating fans provide more even heat, circulate the air, and reduce expense of heating and air-conditioning
* A central vacuum system, with hoses and attachments plugged into special outlets built into the walls in each room, is useful

Safety and Mailboxes

* In the event of fire, there should be an emergency evacuation plan, a fireproof area and a shielded balcony or deck for evacuation purposes, fire detectors, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and emergency numbers on all phones
* If mechanical lifts are used for primary access, a ramp at the opposite end of the home should be used for secondary access
* A large slot letterplate in the door, with a letter basket inside the door; an outdoor shelf for newspapers and packages; and/or a drive-up mailbox positioned to allow access from the vehicle

Ramps

* Ramps are the most reasonable means of access to and from a home.
* Ramps vary widely and therefore the person’s ability to navigate through a ramp, as well as the incline, location, convenience, style, and materials should be considered before a ramp is built or purchased. All ramps should be at least 36 inches wide.
* For curb-height obstacles and small steps, several manufacturers offer a variety of wheelchair ramps, made of aluminum or fiberglass, for temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent applications
* For longer, steeper ramps, ramps may need to be designed and constructed out of concrete or wood. The maximum incline recommended for wheelchair users is 1:12, i.e. for each inch in height, the ramp must extend 12 inches;
* For strong wheelchair users and for those who must be pushed or have a motorized chair, the ramp can be less gentle, i.e. for each in height, it can extend 5 inches
* For unusually strong wheelchair users, for extra-powerful motorized chairs, and if the person is lightweight but the pusher is strong, for each inch in height, the ramp can extend 7 inches · For exterior ramps in climates where ice and snow are common, the incline should be more gradual, i.e. 1:20
* On a long ramp of any slope or on a steep ramp, level rest platforms are necessary at 10 foot intervals for both ascent and descent and to turn the wheelchair; continuous handrails should be installed on each side of the ramp and extend beyond the slope at the top and bottom of the ramp; and ramps should have curbs on both sides to help brake a wheelchair in an emergency
* There should be at least 5 feet of straight clearance at the bottom of a ramp
* Non-skid surfaces are essential and possible with concrete ramps; expanded metal ramps provide traction but are poor for heeled shoes; wood should be treated against rot and have no more than ½ inch between planks; ramps should be protected against the weather and kept free of ice and snow

Lifts and Hoists

* Individual lifts and hoists are used where ramps cannot be placed and/or to transfer people from bed to the wheelchair, bath tub, toilet, exercise mat, etc. and back to the wheelchair and/or the bed; some require assistance, but some can be operated independently; types include manual hydraulic, electrically powered, and portable
* Mechanical lifts are used in homes where there are stairs but no space for ramps; types include vertical and inclined platform lifts, which can be installed with walls for gates for safety and which should have easy to use and conveniently located controls
* Vertical lifts are placed at the bottom of stairs and the upper landing may be need to be extended to meet them
* Inclined platform lifts are mounted on walls or stairs or on tracks along the stairs

Elevators and Transportation

* Residential elevators are available with special car sizes to accommodate wheelchairs and can be installed in a corner or closet that is accessible to all floors of the home based on local building codes
* A standard vehicle with hand controls is suitable for some individuals
* Wheelchair vans and taxis, as well as custom-built vans, are useful for individuals who require assistance or who transport themselves using a power wheelchair or cart; these van should be parked in a covered area, such as a garage, with direct access to the home
* Be careful of car heaters; always wear shoes, seat belts, and shoulder restraints; and avoid resting bare skin on a hot surface

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