10 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR APARTMENT HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE

Millions of people in the United States have disabilities and often find that traditional housing options don’t meet their needs. Landlords can attract these potential tenants by converting apartments into handicap accessible apartments that are comfortable and friendly to those with special needs.
Feel free to listen to our podcast episode #197 on handicap accessible considerations.
Wheelchair accessible and handicap accessible apartments are not very common, therefore disabled or elderly tenants are an underserved market. With a few modifications and changes, you could attract these potential tenants and keep your rental property from sitting vacant.

What is a Handicap Apartment?

Modifying an apartment to be accessible for elderly or disabled residents simply means making some changes to fit someone who uses a wheelchair, scooter or walker or has limited mobility. Everything from doorways to countertops can pose an obstacle for someone in a wheelchair, for example.
Converting an apartment to accommodate the prospective tenant with physical limitations makes it more accessible and therefore boosting his or her quality of life. Handicap apartments are often hard to find, so many disabled and elderly residents cannot find what they need.

10 Ways to Convert to Handicap Apartments

There are some basic changes you can make to an existing apartment that would turn it into a handicap apartment and therefore more friendly toward the elderly or the disabled. Other approaches to convert traditional units to handicap apartments require more extensive remodeling.
Here’s a list of 10 ways to modify an existing apartment to cater to those with physical limitations:

  1. Entrances to the apartment should not have stairs, but be replaced or covered with a wheelchair ramp. These can be made of wood, aluminum or even poured concrete. Check with your local building codes for ramp angles and other important specifications to ensure you are compliant.
  2. Doorways must be wide enough to accommodate a standard wheelchair. From the entrance to the interior doors, this width needs to be at least 32 inches wide. Consider changing the hinge system on the doors to the swing-away style, allowing doors to open even wider to allow the chair to pass all the way through without hitting it.
  3. Thresholds must be flat, not raised, in order to give residents with scooters, wheelchairs and walkers a smooth path all the way throughout the apartment. A ½-inch threshold can become a big deal to a disabled tenant who doesn’t have much mobility.
  4. Faucets in an accessible apartment should be changed out to single lever style. These are easier for people to grip and maneuver if they don’t have full mobility in their hands, arms or upper body. Single lever faucets are simply raised up to turn on, pushed down to turn off and moved right or left to control temperature.
  5. Sinks are hard for people to access when they are in a wheelchair because of low vanity cabinets prevent the user from getting close enough. Consider installing pedestal sinks, wall mounted sinks or removing the cabinets altogether.
  6. Moving from a wheelchair or scooter to the toilet is a challenge, but an accessible apartment should have a raised toilet in the bathroom. Installing sturdy hand bars by the toilet is another way to ensure that the disabled resident can safely and securely maneuver around when he or she needs to use the toilet.
  7. Bathing and showering is a real challenge for residents who are wheelchair-bound or cannot lower themselves into a tub or stand for long periods of time in a shower. It helps greatly when landlords install a handicapped accessible tub/shower unit. This is a tall, deep tub with a door on the side that opens to reveal a seat inside. The tenant can sit on the seat and either bathe or shower. The tenant has no high tub wall to go over, and no slippery shower floor to worry about. These specialized units can easily be installed into existing tub/shower units.
  8. Standard kitchen and bathroom countertops are often too high for someone in a wheelchair or scooter—usually 36 inches for standard height. Lowering countertops to 30 inches makes all the difference and lets a disabled person reach all the way back, utilizing more of the surface space.
  9. Floor level cabinets in the kitchen can hinder the maneuverability of a resident in a wheelchair, so take out some of the floor cabinets, leaving empty space, to allow them to get up close to the countertops.
  10. Many landlords who cater to elderly or disabled tenants install a personal alarm system inside the apartment. This is an electronic device that the resident carries around and can activate to summon help if they are sick, hurt or injured and cannot reach the phone. Some alarms simply make a loud sound, while others are linked to a medical services call center. Providing this as part of an accessible apartment will make it even more attractive to prospective tenants who are elderly or disabled.

Are there a shortage of accessible and handicap accessible apartments in your area? Do you think it’s an underserved market?
Share this article and let us know in the comments below!

2 Comments

  1. Any landlord that would read this article and apply it would be the kind I would rent from. I’m not handicapped, but I know someone wheelchair bound that has a very difficult time finding apartments that accommodate him. This is a fantastic article, thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Stephanie! Reasonable and thoughtful landlords are who everyone should want to rent from.

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