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Housing options

group of three senior women and one younger chatting over coffee

Independent living is a desire of many, if not most, people with disabilities. A number of devices can help people with disabilities perform daily tasks needed to stay living at home. Many of these devices are easy to install and low-cost. Often, products cost less at local hardware and plumbing or electrical supply stores than through disability-related product suppliers. These devices include:

  • Ramps to help people avoid steps
  • Lever door handles that replace round knobs for people with limited use of their hands
  • Bathtub grab bars to prevent falls
  • Seat-lifting chairs for people who have difficulty standing up because of back problems or weak legs

An occupational therapist can visit your home and make suggestions about which devices might make your life easier.

Modifying an existing home to support a person with a short- or long-term disability isn't always possible. For instance, doorways and halls might be too narrow for a wheelchair to fit through. Or remodeling a bathroom or kitchen might cost too much. More and more, people who design and build homes are adopting principles of "universal design." This is not a style, but rather a concept of design that meets the range of functional needs of all types of people. This makes day-to-day living safer and also makes it possible for people to "age in place." Some elements of universal design include:

  • Wide doorways and halls
  • Bathrooms and kitchens that can be adapted at a low cost to support people with changing functional abilities

If you are not able to live on your own or need help with daily living, there are several options:

  • Group homes are houses or apartments where two or more people with disabilities live together. They help each other perform tasks of daily living. Group home businesses also have staff who visit the homes and help residents.
  • Assisted-living facilities provide a variety of services, including housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, and transportation. They have staff who are available 24 hours to help as needed.
  • Nursing homes are for people with more severe disabilities who need 24-hour nursing care. Nursing homes also often have doctors on staff.

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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