Disability At Home
Disability At Home
About This Project
This website documents the ingenuity and creativity that caregivers and disabled people, including those with chronic illnesses, use every day to make home accessible. These images were shared with me during research for my upcoming book about disability and care. I spoke with 44 couples in 22 states about their daily lives. But because research began during the pandemic, I couldn’t visit in person. So, I asked for photos instead. The result was hundreds of photos I knew the world needed to see.
Many didn’t come into this knowing how to adapt their homes or how to make them accessible, but they learned through trial and error. This site shows the profound competence and capability of disabled folks and caregivers, that it can be figured out, that you can make life work, and that millions of people do it every day. I hope this gives others ideas and confidence for their own creative world-building practices at home. Let’s work to make it easier for the millions of people across the US who are disabled and navigating an inaccessible world. To facilitate this, I have included suggested search terms you can use to purchase similar items in the photo descriptions, as well as approximate costs when possible. There’s even a downloadable med sheet that one caregiver provided!
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Sometimes, simple and relatively inexpensive hospital staples can make a big difference at home—like the hospital tray table. “We first thought of this at a hospital, where they use it so you can have a tray to put your food on, they can slide it so the legs go under
Let’s talk about painter’s tape. Ángel worked as a housepainter for decades, but had a stroke three years ago that paralyzed the left side of his body. Now, painter’s tape is a key everyday tool. He uses it to hold down a piece a paper he needs to sign (Another
Medication regimens can be extremely complex. Sometimes medicines need to be taken at a certain time, a certain time period before eating, after eating, with food, without, and so on. Keeping a handle on all these different requirements was something that people developed different strategies for because frankly, it’s confusing!
Medication management is a full time job. Between getting meds covered by insurance and remembering to to take them, managing complex medication regimens is a daily, and usually multiple times a day, task. It can be hard and overwhelming to keep track of medications, the times they must be taken,
Let’s talk about incontinence! Urinating and having bowel movements are just part of daily life. Because of stigma, many people struggle to talk about ways to deal with toileting in the context of disability, but we’ve got some tips and tricks here, starting with this “incontinence kit.” “These are all
Another way to deal with overnight urination is the urinal. It’s nothing fancy, but it works. They’re cheap and easy to obtain, but they can make overnights so much better. Betty, who cares for her husband in New Jersey, told me, “He has a urinal in case has to use
This roll in shower shows how you can easily lower items for access from a seated position in a shower chair. Shower shelves are often placed higher up when embedded in the tiles, but this metal shower shelving can be adjusted. Here, they’ve placed the shelving at a lower height
This hack comes from a very specific need: Magnolia in Maryland, who is caring for her husband, talked about how painful it can be for any kind of pressure to be on his feet and legs. This includes the weight of sheets and blankets. Yet he needs to be kept
In Pennsylvania, Tina has multiple sclerosis and uses a motorized wheelchair. She loves to cook, but she needed the spices moved out from behind a closed cabinet door and instead to a place where she could see them. Magnetic refrigerator shelves to the rescue! These mounted easily on the front
This is a photo of a roll in shower, which eliminates the need for having to negotiate any lips or bathtub walls. But it still requires transferring to a shower chair, and this one is extra wide. Grab bars also run the length of the shower. Installing a roll in
“I just kept looking online and when I discovered that toilet to shower chair, I measured our bathroom and it fit perfectly.” This type of chair can be a relief for those struggling with safe transfers. This is called a toilet to tub transfer bench or toilet to tub sliding
This chair has a double life: When it’s not a shower chair, it is repurposed as a commode. One couple, living in a small apartment in Pennsylvania at the time and whom we’ll call Ben and Tina, found that this was the best way to meet Tina’s toileting needs. “It
This picture highlights two things: a rolling cart and an orientation clock. Rolling carts with shelves can help keep things organized and their portability is also useful, especially if there are multiple things to remember to bring from room to room. If you’re doing wound care and need a lot
Although amendments to the Fair Housing Act in 1988 resulted in disabled people being included under the law, there remains little availability of accessible housing in the United States. Less than five percent of housing in the country is accessible for people with “moderate mobility difficulties and less than one
Dementia, memory loss, or brain injury can present unique challenges when navigating around the house. One person I spoke with valued his label maker more than just about anything. For his wife, who had a brain injury, the key was constantly jogging her memory throughout the house. He did this
Walkers are common mobility devices that help people move safely. They’re also relatively cheap. As one person told me, “Medicare supplies certain equipment. They usually only allow a wheelchair or a walker, because that’s what we were told when he lost his legs. “You can either have a free walker
Getting a caregivers’ attention for help across the house can take some creativity. One couple in Arizona shared that they kept “little bells in every room.” This way, no matter what room someone’s in, you can find a bell to ring if it’s needed. Bells are low-tech, don’t have to
Grab bars may seem like a small adjustment, but they make an enormous difference. “It really helps, him getting on and off the shower seat and into the shower. Without those bars we couldn’t manage it I don’t think,” says one person. Grab bars were the most ubiquitous of home
For some people I spoke to, taking meds was difficult because of swallowing problems. One trick those folks use is to buy a thickening agent. One caregiver told me, ” I buy Thick It by the case of six gallons on Amazon and use it all the time. You have
Poor grip can mean you need more traction. There are ways to create this by wrapping everyday things with something that has traction. For example, in upstate New York, Jon, who is disabled from the West Nile Virus, has to spend a lot of time maintaining and building strength with
This bathroom was renovated to add some wheelchair-friendly aspects. These two photos show the bathroom sink and counter that has the under cabinet removed from directly under the sink. This lets the wheelchair user roll up to the sink with his legs under the counter. The faucet also has a
Wheelchairs break, parts wear out, things go wrong. Disabled people have long had to deal with terribly long waits for repairs and disabled communities have worked around this by doing ad hoc wheelchair repair for their communities. Maintenance and repair are key because when your wheelchair is broken, you’re absolutely
This accessible shower incorporates grab bars, both vertical and horizontal, and a set of adjustable shower shelves that holds a waterproof orienting clock. This person needed constant reminders of the day and time, and placing an orienting clock helped with monitoring the length of showering and maintaining focus on the
Another hack for one-handed folks or those with wobbly grips is to use a rubberized place mat or rubberized cabinet or drawer liner to create more stable surfaces. You can use them on tables, trays, you name it. “It’s the stuff that you put inside your kitchen cabinets to keep
When you only have the use of one hand, cooking requires some creativity. In New Jersey, Bob only has the use of one hand and arm after a stroke. But he has figured out numerous workarounds in the kitchen. His go-to? An 8 1/2 x 11 silicone trivet. In the
“When my husband first came home he went for more than a month without being able to have anything more than a wipe down spit bath kinda thing,” one woman tells me. Finally though, they found a shower bench that worked for them. Showers are necessary, but let’s face it,
Here’s another example of an accessible shower set up. This one has all the tools: There is a clamp on tub rail, a shower bench, suction grab bars, and a handheld shower head. Like many others, this set up was the product of trial and error over time. Notice that
Staying hydrated is an important every day routine. But for many folks, it can be hard to use a cup without spilling its contents. People I spoke with talked about how important it was to have good spill proof cups, cups with lids and straws, and cups with handles. If
Temporary grab bars or suction grab bars were a common choice for people who did not have the money or desire to build in grab bars to the walls. But they are definitely not as sturdy as built in grab bars. When I spoke with Dan in New Jersey, he
When someone has dementia or other memory or cognitive problems, orientation tools can help keep folks grounded. For a low-tech, inexpensive solution, one caregiver I spoke to used a dry erase board. “This is how I post a daily plan. My hope, in the beginning, is that she would always
This picture shows a unique use of grab bars. For this person, making it up the one step from the garage to the kitchen became impossible without safely holding onto something. In this case, they took short grab bars and mounted them on either side of the door frame, allowing
A mortar and pestle can be an unexpected feeding tube essential. In order to add medications to a feeding tube, meds need to be pulverized into a powder. While plastic pill cutters and pulverizers abound, one caregiver I spoke to dealt with some pills that were just so hard they
This photo features two different kinds of simple and inexpensive tools. On the top is a black and grey grabber. You squeeze the handle to pull the pincers at the end together to grab and pick up things. The blue canvas one with a loop on the bottom is a
Managing a lot of different medications is overwhelming because it requires organizing and keeping track of a lot of important information. Meds need to be refilled at different times, their dosages get adjusted, and it’s helpful to note histories and associated doctors so you know who to contact for questions.
Mobility impairments can makes steps difficult and dangerous. But renovating a home can be extremely expensive and take a long time. Many find themselves suddenly faced with trying to adapt a home after a disabling event. It can be hard to figure out how to do that on a budget.
Another option for installing a grab bar in the bathroom that doesn’t require mounting anything into the walls is this bathtub rail or clamp on tub rail. These are relatively cheap (often under $40) but can make getting in and out of a bathtub much safer. And because it’s not
The little known lifesaver for sleeping through the night: the condom catheter! Here’s where support groups and sharing information really comes in handy. Because doctors just don’t always help you as much as you need. One caregiver named Magnolia told me about how she was getting up 5 or 6
Many caregivers talked about repurposing “baby monitors” to give them piece of mind and be able to ensure their spouse was still breathing, hadn’t fallen, or was still in bed. From seriously ill individuals to those with dementia, video monitoring was an easy and relatively cheap way to stay connected
Grab bars may seem like a small adjustment, but they make an enormous difference. “It really helps him getting on and off the shower seat and into the shower. Without those bars we couldn’t manage it I don’t think,” says one person. People often got creative with where to put
This picture shows a number things. For one, it shows how you can use a bariatric commode (with the bowl removed) on top of a toilet and it becomes a toilet seat raiser. This is a great way to raise the seat so it’s easier to get up and down,
Here again is the shower chair with the double life as a commode. So often, people are sent home with a basic shower chair that is available anywhere. Though this can be a fine option, for some, it just doesn’t fill the need. And so folks spend ages finding a
There are a ton of accessible bathroom tips in this photo to share! Like other pictures, this shows lowered shelving so that items can be reached from a seated position. But it also includes a modification: a wall mounted shower bench. This is mounted properly to support someone’s body weight.
These are free standing or standalone toilet safety rails or toilet grab rails. They act a bit like grab bars since they help in safely transferring from toilet to standing and vice versa, but they don’t require wall mounting. These can be a a great way to make a toilet
Using a wheelchair to get around is so freeing, but it can be hard to carry things at the same time. One man I spoke with, whom we will call Ángel, likes to move stuff around, to load up tools and groceries and get going with his projects. He made
Washing dishes with one hand just takes a little creativity. When I visited Ángel in Florida, he showed me how he did is part when it came to washing dishes. He only has the use of one side of his body since he had a stroke, but he’s figured out
When you’re at risk for falls, one way to ensure the floor has less of a hard landing is to use cheap foam tiles. Carpeting can be a no-go for folks who use mobility devices, yet hardwood or tile floors can be painful and injury inducing. Softening the floor can
Ramps are a relatively simple item that can drastically change a home or venue from inaccessible to accessible. But they can be expensive to put in, expensive if you buy a temporary one, and people have always rigged them up out of materials they could find. (The disabled artist Park
When you spend most of your time in bed, it’s important to keep all of your essential needs close to you. Bed rails are usually bought for safety, since they help people move and adjust themselves in bed more independently and prevent falls. But many people customized them as a
This photo shows more of those DIY budget grab bars made of gas pipes or nipples. Here, they are mounted in the shower tiles and one picture shows a close up of the flanges used to mount them. You can read more about using pipes on a budget in this
Grabbers or grabbing tools can be super helpful. And grabbing tools are cheap and effective; you can pick them up fairly easily and they quickly allow people with mobility impairments to get their hands on what they need. This picture shows a dressing area set up. The chair, with arm
Ángel, who had been a painter for decades, once again puts a tool from his trade to a new use. Since he began using a wheelchair, the small lip in the concrete between the garage and the driveway could give him real trouble. If the wheels of his chair hit
When you’re not mobile and across the house from a caregiver, it can be hard to get their attention for assistance. Some people use voice activation on their iPhone to have Siri text the person, but others preferred different devices. One couple shared a set of walkie talkies. Lightweight, with