Ideas for Home Adaptations
A Guide to Home Modifications
By Joanna Campbell, Sandy Becker, and Vicky Schulte, LPA Office
We are often asked about home, school and workplace modifications for children and families or individuals with dwarfism. As you can imagine, LPA families and individuals vary greatly in the make-up of each family and physical abilities, as well as financial ability and desire to make modifications. Here is a list suggestions and ideas for different home modifications designed to fit different budgets and capabilities. We hope these suggestions will make your home more comfortable and independent for everyone. We’d love to hear your suggestions too! Give us your feed back and suggestions by contacting us at the office via e-mail or phone.
Easy, inexpensive modifications – these are basic modifications that require a minimum of cost but greatly increase function:
1. Step Stools – a must for every home. Whether they are solid wood or light-weight plastic every home needs a step stool.
For a variety of one-step and two-step stools in various step heights and materials, check out Ikea (www.ikea.com) and Target (www.target.com). Traditional plastic brands are Sterilite (www.sterilite.com) and Rubbermaid (www.rubbermaid.com).
Folding stepstools come in very handy to carry in a car or for spaces that can’t have a full step stool in place all the time. Crate and Barrel (www.crateandbarrel.com) has one and they are also easy to find at camping stores.
Bathroom stepstools are important. Look for one that has handles and a foot mechanism to stay in place like the one at Mommy’s Helper (www.mommyshelperinc.com)
2. Light Switch Extenders – a typical light switch can be placed to high for many people with dwarfism. If you have a traditional toggle switch you can modify it by drilling a very small screw into the plastic switch and attaching a wooden or clear plastic dowel with an eyehook. Some types attach without tools. If you have a rocker switch, a wooden dowel with a rubber tip placed near the switch is the easiest way to modify your reach ability.
One resource is www.lightswitchextension.com.
3. Lower closet bars or install closet extension bars - Closet clothes hanging bars are easy to lower. Simply purchase a dowel cut to the correct length of the closet and purchase plastic closet rod supports (usually less than $2.00 a set). Other options are closet extension bars that suspend from your existing high closet bar. The Whitmore Double Hang Closet Rod sells at www.Sears.com for less than $10.00.
4. Lever-style Door Handles –a lever-style door handle on both interior and exterior doors are much easier to work than a round doorknob style for most little people. For a variety try www.homedepot.com or www.directdoorhardware.com. To make it even more accessible, tie an 18” length of a strong fabric to make it accessible and easy to pull down the lever.
5. Blocks for Tricycles – simply use strong duct tape or electrical tape to tape wooden blocks onto pedals. Shop for a brand with a shorter leg length. The Kettler brand from Germanyhas some good options. www.kettlerusa.com.
6. Childrens Play Tables – look for a wooden playtable instead of a plastic table, Ikea has some options. The legs of the table and chairs can be easily shortened and are still stable.
7. Foot rest bar for wood or metal chairs – try adding a wooden or metal bar bolted across the front of kitchen or desk chairs for a foot rest. The bar is bolted about halfway between the floor and the seat. It provides a step and footrest without requiring a completely different chair.
8. Lower towel hooks and towel bars in bathroom.
9. Move plates, utensils and at least a few glasses to a lower drawer or cabinet in the kitchen.
10. Install a mirror at a lower height.
Slightly more expensive and/or longer term modifications
1. Lowered Light Switches – have an electrician physically lower the light switches to a comfortable height.
2. When time to replace, purchase a front-loading washing machine. Look for appliances with front panel buttons.
3. When time to replace, look for a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer combo instead of a stacked version.
4. Shower heads – shower heads are easily changeable by adding an adjustable slide bar so that it can be moved higher and lower on the shower wall, or by having a removable shower head with a coil that can be placed at different heights on the shower wall. www.sears.com has a variety.
5. Low Profile Furniture
A 2-4 drawer horizontal chest is much better than a 6 drawer vertical chest. If you do use a vertical stacking chest of drawers be sure to attach it to the wall so that it doesn’t fall over if someone climbs up on it. Amazon.com sells furniture wall straps, as do baby-proofing companies like www.mypreciouskid.com. Remember to attach your TV to the wall as well.
6. Removing feet from standard furniture like couches and club, wing back or fabric arm chairs can make it more comfortable. Ikea has many choices for low profile furniture. Little People Big Design, www.lpbigdesign.com has gorgeous furniture designed with specifically for little people.
7. Lower the microwave by either placing on a table in or near the kitchen, or for a more permanent solution, build the microwave into under the counter. An under-the-counter cabinet space without a door on it works well.
Install a lowered peephole in the front door, if there are no windows near the door.
8. Install water faucets that automatically turn on when you wave your hands under them.
Permanent and more expensive home adaptations
1. Install a retracting step within the kick plate on an average sink height for the kitchen.
2. Lower the kitchen sink and countertops, bathroom sink and countertops and reduce island height. Always remember to keep the kick plate on cabinets. It seems like an easy piece to remove to lower cabinets, but the kick plate serves a very important job in helping people keep their balance while standing at a cabinet. Modify cabinets by shortening from the top or bottom of the cabinet itself, depending on drawer and door placement.
3. For a single child with dwarfism with average-height family members, create an area in the kitchen with a lowered sink and food prep area (a bar-size sinks work great for this)
4. Create a cooking space using a stove top built into a lowered counter, and mount a wall oven lower than typical. Ovens are also available with side opening doors, though they are harder to find and tend to be European models. A good article can be found here: http://www.epicurious.com, search for side-opening ovens.
5. Lower electrical panels
6. Build shallow steps or stairs with a lower rise. Always include lowered handrails.
7. In a two story house, add a second lower handrail underneath the existing one.
8. Lower shower internal wall plumbing for a cleaner look in the shower.
9. Install drapery and window blinds that are operated by remote control.
10. Remove any stairs you can by replacing with ramps.