Wheelchair Accessibility Renovations, an Expensive Process
Imagine being unable to gain access to a room in your home, all because there is a sill on the door. Unimaginable, right? Well, that is the case of several people who are either ill or living with disabilities.
Jennifer Glanz, a multiple sclerosis patient who uses a wheelchair ,told the Ottawa Citizen, that even though the sill of the sliding glass door in her home is just a few centimetres high, it still felt like she was climbing a mountain whenever she tried to go through the door on her wheelchair.
Glanz who lived in a bungalow with her husband, Eli, had earlier had to fit a four thousand dollar electric lift in the garage of their home so that she could leave the house when she needed to. The couple also made alterations to their bathroom to make the room free of any barriers for Glanz. Then they installed some offset hinges that made the doors of their home, swing totally out of the way, giving Jennifer’s wheelchair an additional five centimetres width space, to go through the doorway.
The couple, who live with their three-year-old daughter, have other renovation projects planned for the future, all in an effort to make life a little easier for Glanz. For one they were going to put a little ramp over the door sill, and then they planned to build another ramp down the grass so that Glanz could watch her daughter play outside in the summer.
Installing a wooden ramp to the door costs anywhere between $500 to $5,000, while fancier ramps made of interlocking brick could cost between $15,000 to $20,000.
This provides a glimpse of the life of wheelchair users. According to Statistics Canada, 22 percent of Canadians suffer from some form of physical disability. A lot of changes are needed in a home to make it more comfortable for wheelchair users. For instance, every wheelchair user needs a wheelchair ramp by their front door.
These renovations could get costly especially if one is making a lot of modifications to the house. A full kitchen renovation cost up to $30,000.Many people depend on tax breaks, court settlements, insurance pay-outs or grants from charities to pay for these renovations.
Ontario lawyer, Najma Rashid, says that under Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, a person who suffers catastrophic damages in a car crash is entitled to $1 million and one who suffers non-catastrophic injuries, could get up to $65,000.
“Just because someone’s injuries aren’t catastrophic, doesn’t mean they’re not serious,” Rashid said. “Many people with serious injuries might be stuck with that $65,000 and it’s only available for five years so they have to make a judgment call as to whether they’re going to use part of the money for changes to their home or for on-going treatment needs.” Rashid is a partner at Howard Yegendorf & Associates.
Currently, businesses exist that are dedicated to making the home more comfortable for wheelchair users. Sean MacGinnis, a co-founder of BuildAble, an Ottawa company that specializes in building and renovating homes for accessibility,says that lighting is one of the most important features to consider when fixing up a home for people who use a wheelchair.
However, Eli and Jennifer Glanz, appear less interested in lighting and more interested in making their bathroom more accessible. The couple hired Build Able to set up a bathroom free of any barriers. After the renovations, Jennifer was able to get into the shower all by herself. They also had a floating sink installed, which gave Jennifer better access around the bathroom.
In Eli and Jennifer’s case, their entire bathroom renovation project cost $15,000 which the couple paid off using grants obtained from March of Dimes. However, they covered the cost of the bathroom renovations out of their own pockets.
MacGinnis says that some of the typical modifications to homes of wheelchair users include additional grab bars and handrails, around a staircase, it costs about a hundred dollars to install a grab bar, and a thousand dollars to get additional staircase railings.