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Home improvements for people with disabilities

Home with wooden wheelchair ramp
romakoma/Shutterstock
Home with wooden wheelchair ramp
romakoma/Shutterstock

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For a person living with a disability, creating a safe space at home can mean a lot of extra work and money. The task of outfitting a home for a disability can seem daunting and even impossible. Yet, the need for a home that is functional and enjoyable is essential for a higher quality of life.

Some common home improvements for people with functional disabilities include:

  • Wheelchair ramps
  • Roll-in shower
  • Kitchen counter changes
  • Widened doorways and hallways

Even small changes in the home of a disabled or aging person can make a big difference in everyday life: smooth flooring for someone in a wheelchair or lever door handles for someone with arthritic hands.

What do home modifications for the physically disabled cost?

A person with physical disabilities could have many different needs for their home depending on the type of disability they are living with. Here are some of the most common home modifications, as renovations geared toward the disabled and the elderly are officially called. The costs cited may of course vary in cost depending on your particular home and geographic region.

Home Modification Purpose Average Cost (materials and professional installation)
Ramps A ramp allows for easy entry into the house and eliminates steps that can be difficult for those in wheelchairs or with difficulty walking $1,400 – $3,000
Pocket doors Installing pocket doors means eliminating a door and a hinge that could be in the way when opened. $500 – $4,250 per door
Lever handles Grabbing a doorknob can be difficult for someone with arthritis or any disability that affects dexterity. Lever handles are much easier to use. $178 $420 per knob
Wide doorways To make space for wheelchairs and walkers, some doorways may need to be widened. If you can’t afford to widen every doorway, consider widening the most used ones. $300 – $2,500 per doorway
Flooring Anyone with trouble walking will need flooring that is slip-resistant and softer. You’ll also want to avoid carpets for wheelchairs and walkers as they can get caught and cause falls. Opt for uniform rubber flooring throughout the home, if possible. Up to $6.05 per square foot
Brighter lighting Aging seniors or anyone with vision impairments may have difficulty seeing well in their home with the typical lighting. Brighter lights can be a simple fix for better vision in the home. $3 per bulb
Smooth exterior walkways Exterior walkways can easily become falling hazards for someone with poor eyesight or difficulty walking. Eliminate gravel walkways if possible or level out uneven payment that may cause trips or falls. Varies depending on the type of walkway
Phone access When help may be needed at any moment in any room of the house, having a phone nearby in each room is a good idea. Consider adding phone lines to each room of the house in case of emergency. $108 – $269 per jack
Electric stairlift If it is impossible to eliminate the need to go upstairs but stairs are difficult for the resident, consider getting an electric stair lift for a safe way to travel between floors. $2,000 – $20,000
Ramps Ramps inside or outside of the house can allow for easy entry into the house and eliminate steps that can be difficult for those in wheelchairs or with difficulty walking. $50 – $6,000
Roll-in shower Roll-in showers offer autonomy in bathing for the wheel-chair bound. Starting at $1,200 – $2,800

Home modifications for children with disabilities

Children with disabilities may also require home renovations for a calmer and more accessible space. You may have a child at home with autism spectrum disorder, a sensory processing disorder, a physical disability or a chronic disease.

Before you make any changes to your home, consider your child and their needs. You should also think about what you can afford along with which changes in the home will be the most helpful.

The table below lists some common home modifications for children with disabilities (particularly autism) and their costs.

Home Modification Purpose Average Cost (materials and professional installation)
Lighting for sensory issues Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) means you are either overly sensitive to outside stimuli or you are less sensitive to outside stimuli. Either way, SPD can mean regular lighting can cause problems. Noises from light fixtures can also bother a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Consider changing out light bulbs or fixtures if your current lighting causes issues for your child. $3 per bulb
Soundproofing A quiet space is highly recommended for children with both ASD and SPD. Soundproofing a room or your whole house can be helpful. Since children with ASD can also be loud sometimes, soundproofing may also help be considerate of neighbors. $300 – $45,000 per room depending on the size of the room and the materials used
Gates and fencing Peace of mind for parents of children with disabilities is just as important as creating a calm and welcoming space for the child. Having the proper gates and fences to keep your child safe can help you feel calmer as a parent. $1,600 – $4,000 depending on size and materials
Hardwood flooring For kids with sensory issues, carpet can cause many problems with smell. Carpet holds odors and stains that may make life more difficult for children with these types of disabilities. Consider switching to hardwood flooring to get rid of lingering odors. $11 – $16 per square foot, installed
Monitoring devices If you worry about being able to watch your disabled child at all times, it may be a good idea to invest in a security system or monitoring device that will allow you to see your child even when you are not home or are in another room. You could also install an alert system to go off when certain gates or doors are opened. $750 – $2,000
Durable everyday items With disabilities that may affect your child’s dexterity or ability to remain calm, it is only natural that items like glasses or plates will get dropped. If your current dining ware is fragile, invest in plastic ones that may last longer if dropped. Varies depending on the items

How to pay for home modifications

Looking at the price tag for home renovations can get overwhelming, but there are many funding options to consider when making home improvements for the disabled. Both federal and local governments, as well as non-profits, have funding options available for these types of renovations in many cases.

Federal resources

Federal laws protect the rights of people with disabilities, allowing options for having an accessible home, even when renting. Consider the following laws and resources when looking for funding for your home renovations:

  • Fair Housing Act:
    This law prohibits discrimination against anybody in housing-related activities dues to disability. If you are a renter, this law requires your landlord to allow you to make reasonable modifications to your home so that you can make your home accessible for your disability.
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA):
    The FHA offers resources for homebuyers and homeowners in the United States. The FHA offers different assistance programs by state, so research what is available in the applicable area.
  • USA.gov: Its website lists programs that may help you fund your home renovations.

Local funding and legal resources

Funding may be available at a local level too. Research the following options:

  • Local city or state government
  • Local non-profits
  • Local advocacy organizations to help you fight for your right to assistance if you have been denied

Additional resources

If you have researched national and local options and still need funding, consider the other options that may be available. You can apply for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. You may also consider a personal line of credit if you only need a small amount of funding.

Many funding options are available, so research all your options when considering what funding is available to you.

Paying for disabled veterans’  home modifications

Veterans may take advantage of a variety of special options to pay for home modifications they may need because of their disabilities. They can consider these government-funded programs:

  • Specially Adapted Housing (SAH): This program offers grants to service members with severe injuries which can be used to purchase, build or remodel a home adapted for their needs. Currently, veterans can receive grants up to $101,754.
  • Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grants: Another option for disabled veterans, the SHA grant may be up to $40,983 in 2022. This grant offers help to veterans modifying or buying a permanent home that will allow them to continue to live independently.
  • VA cash-out refinance home loans: If you don’t qualify for either of the above grants, consider a VA cash-out refinance home loan. You can replace any current home loan with this type of loan if you qualify. This type of loan requires no down payment, and it may help you get some extra cash to pay for the renovations needed.

Final word on home improvements for people with disabilities

For any home improvements for the disabled — or the elderly — start by assessing the individual’s needs. Sometimes the assessment of a contractor or interior designer (there are those that specialize in home modifications) or an occupational therapist (OT) can be helpful.

Consider which modifications would help them live better, function more autonomously, and feel more comfortable in their home.

Once you know what you want to change, think about your budget and what options you have to finance your renovations. Some may qualify for tax deductions, as medical expenses, as well.

Written by
Emma Woodward
Contributing writer
Emma Woodward is a former contributor for Bankrate and a freelance writer who loves writing to demystify personal finance topics. She has written for companies and publications like Finch, Toast, JBD Clothiers and The Financial Diet.
Edited by
Senior homeownership editor