Many months into a global pandemic, some people in safer areas have started to cautiously welcome a limited number of friends and relatives into their homes. Yet for people who use mobility devices, there are more routine dangers lurking around corners, in addition to the virus. Unfamiliar surfaces and surroundings present a challenge both for getting in and out of your home, as well as moving around inside it. Here are a few things to consider to make sure your home is at its friendliest for your visitors on wheels.
1. Check your entranceways
The first challenge to visitors is getting in and out of the home. You should consider where you will have your visitor park and make sure the walkway is smooth for them to get to the house. Visitors who arrive in accessible transit vehicles equip with a ramp may also need extra space to unload both themselves and their mobility devices. Next, find out how wide your doorways are, and see if there is room to fit the wheelchair or rollator through. If there is a lip on the doorway, consider whether placing a rug overtop would make it a smoother ride.
While you’re at it, make sure that any rooms you may invite your guests into have the same clearance, including the bathroom. While some rollators collapse somewhat to fit through the doorway, it’s ideal to have an entranceway wide enough.
If your regular entrance is tight, check whether another might be more comfortable, for example a side door. Also look at whether there are any steps required to enter, and discuss with your visitor how best to navigate these. Some rollator users may be able to navigate a step or two with assistance, for example.
Find out if your doorway is big enough for your visitor.
2. Assess your surfaces
After your visitor has entered the house, it’s helpful to look around for any obstacles that could get in their way. Look on the floor first: what kinds of surfaces are you asking them to navigate? If there are throw rugs on the floor, remove them so the surface is smoother. It goes without saying to clear any toys or other items out of the way (move your boot tray)
If there is an area rug in your living room, remember to call your visitor’s attention to it as they roll in, so they are prepared for any changes to their rolling surface. Look at your furniture with the same eye that you had on your doorway — if there’s a grouping that’s tight, consider shifting the furniture so there is room for the wheelchair to clear it. Ideally, imagine the room they would need to turn around in these spaces and make room for the turn radius. Move that coffee table to the side, consider relocating an invasive side table.
Clear all obstacles and make the surface smoother.
3. Prepare your bathroom.
Your guest will also feel more comfortable if you’ve given some thought to how they will use the bathroom. Again, it’s probably helpful to remove any bathmats that could be tripping hazards.
Also check whether everything they need is within reach. If your toilet paper is a stretch, consider taking a roll out and putting it closer to the toilet. You should also look for any possible barriers preventing them from using the sink to wash their hands. The hand soap and towel should be easy to reach and use when needed.
If your guest is staying for a longer period of time, you might consider small modifications that could help everyone. For example, a grab bar in the shower or even an inexpensive shower chair.
4. Ask your guest
When you invite a friend to dinner, ask them about any allergies so you don’t harm them with your food. Don’t be shy to ask your visitor with mobility aids if there’s anything you can do. Since they live with their mobility devices fulltime, they’re likely far better experts than you are on this subject. They can tell you what they need, and what they don’t. Ask them after you’ve already assessed your home on your own, so you’re familiar with possible hazards, and walk them through how you plan to welcome them. Then, ask if there’s anything else they may need.
In the end, you have invited your visitor to your home because you like them as people. Therefore, after you’ve taken these few extra steps to think about their comfort, feel free to just enjoy their company. Check in with them as they enter your home and navigate the space. If they say they are fine, then trust them — no need to hover or ask repeatedly if they are okay. And once you’ve welcomed them the first time, bonus is that your house is now ready for their next visit.