Home Rehabilitation is the process of adapting, or modifying the home to optimize safety, improve accessibility, and promote independence/self-reliance for those with handicaps or disabilities. Home rehabilitation can be as important as physical rehabilitation for someone recovering from a trauma or illness. Typical modifications and improvements include:
- widening doorways
- adding grab bars
- barrier free showers with benches
- wall mounted sinks
- lowering counters
- creating roll-under work spaces
- using over-sized door handles
- voice activated appliances
- installing automatic lighting
These are all adaptations that can improve the quality of life and extend the time a person can stay in their home.
Many housing modifications can be made without hiring a contractor. Adding grab bars, door handles, hand-held shower devices, eliminating thresholds, adding kick plates on doors, voice-activated appliances, or automated lighting, can be done by a handyman or family member with basic skills. A terrific resource and reference guide for the do-it-yourselfer is a book titled “The Right Space: A wheelchair Accessibility Guide for Single Family Homes.”
Other modifications should be made by a skilled contractor. One caveat frequently overlooked, is that making changes to include handicap accessible design can add value to your home! It is wise to consult a Disability Planner to carefully consider design options before you embark on dramatic (or expensive) home modifications. There are many beautiful plans based on Universal and Accessible Design principles.
When you are ready to make changes to your home, here are some important considerations and questions to ask before you hire a contractor for disability modifications.
- Find an established local contractor. One who lives in your community and cares about his reputation. (Yelp, or Angie’s List can be helpful)
- Make sure that the contractor has insurance and is licensed to do the work required. Get verification.
- Does your contractor have experience with disability retrofits? Does your contractor have Universal Design Certification? (National Association of the Remodeling Industry: Universal Design Certified Remodeler (UDCR))
- References? (Contractors with a good reputation can generally be counted on to do a good job).
- Comparisons: Get 3 bids and use the same language when explaining the type of work needed. (i.e. ramps, lifts etc.)
- Ask if your contractor offers discounts for seniors or will work on a sliding scale basis?
- Make sure the contractor can stay within your budget. Get the quote in writing and be sure it spells out any change order costs.
- Ask for a written agreement that includes only a small down payment and specifies exactly what work will be done and how much it will cost (with the balance of payment to be made when the job is finished).
- Check with your local Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, to see if any complaints have been filed against the contractor.
- Although ADA laws do not apply to private homeowners, be sure your contractor is well versed in them. This is especially true for instances where wheelchairs are involved. Does your contractor know the ADA specifications for turning radius in bathrooms and elsewhere?
Some things contractor bids should include:
- List specifics of your job, such as the brand names of supplies, type and quantity of materials to be installed, etc.
- If the contractor plans to use any sub-contractors, the details on this sub-contracting should be outlined in the bid.
- Cleanup, debris and hazardous waste removal and safety clearance of the job site.
- Any warranties provided under the contract.
- Securing any necessary building permits with your city or town.
Be sure to ask questions for anything you don’t understand. Following these guidelines for hiring a contractor can help you avoid unnecessary frustration, expenses, or delays in construction.
Here is a handy Fact Sheet for home modifications from the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging.
~ Karl Power, CEO