Jessica Ping-Wild travels the world and works as a blogger and disability advocate. As an amputee who primarily uses a wheelchair to get around, she works to make travel more accessible for all. Jessica shares 12 ways to make your home more accessible for all HomeExchange guests.
Did you know that 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability? Now that may seem small, but when one does the math, that equates to approximately 1.17 billion people. That is quite a few potential HomeExchange guests! People with disabilities are active travelers and some even write about their experiences online.
For those traveling with a disability, HomeExchange has a "disabled access" search filter to use when finding vacation accommodations, so you can browse more than 13,000 homes that have been labeled as accessible.
One of the biggest challenges facing disabled travelers is inaccessibility. As an amputee who primarily uses a wheelchair to get around, I’ve run into quite a few uncomfortable situations on my expeditions. I’ve had to navigate subway stations whose only advertised elevators were broken down and historic sites that aren’t nearly as ramp-friendly as their websites let on.
Traveling, though one of my favorite things in the whole world, is truly exhausting as a person with a disability. For this reason, when it comes to choosing which accommodation to book, many people with disabilities scrutinize every option down to the smallest detail because they want to ensure they can relax comfortably and without hassle after a long day out and about.
Most homes around the world were not built with accessibility in mind and most likely are missing key accessible features. That said, making your home accessible is not an impossible feat. If you are able and interested in creating a safe and accommodating space for all potential guests but have no idea where to start, the list below is a great reference point!
Below are 12 important accessibility features that could assist in making travel easier for a variety of different people with disabilities, including wheelchair users, people with visual impairments, and those with chronic illness conditions.
It’s important to note that not every person with a registered disability will require the same accommodations. That said, the list below is comprehensive of a variety of different needs. While there is no guarantee that this is a completely exhaustive list, it does cover many of the standard accessibility requirements one may come across.
A Bedroom on the Ground Floor (or a working elevator)
Stairs, particularly an entire flight of stairs, are not just a barrier, but a safety hazard to many people with disabilities. Ensuring there is a bed on the first floor will provide an extra sense of comfort to families traveling with physical limitations.
A Bathroom on the Ground Floor (or a working elevator)
Similarly to the point above, a bathroom on the ground floor is imperative. Even if a guest is capable of climbing stairs, doing so quickly is not a guarantee, especially in a potentially emergent situation.
Step-Free Access into the House/Apartment/Room
This one most likely goes without saying, but even a small step into a home can cause many issues for wheelchair users. Depending on the materials used for construction and the length of material needed, the cost of installing a ramp can vary, but a simple one shouldn’t break the bank!
A large hallway not only assists wheelchair users in getting around but also those with other physical limitations and visual impairments. Allowing room for the use of canes or walking sticks can make someone feel safer navigating around your home for the first time.
Having a large number of paintings or posters on the wall can lead someone on the spectrum to feel overstimulated and having too many floor-based decorations (lamps, plants, etc) can cause those with physical limitations difficulty maneuvering around. Home decorations are wonderful and can bring a space to life, just try to avoid going over the top.
People with disabilities may be dealing with small assistive devices such as medicine containers or catheters. Ensuring that the lighting in the bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchens is sufficient (but not harsh!) can truly make a difference in a person’s evening routine.
Grab Bars in the Bathroom
Grab bars are fairly cheap and easy to install. Even just adding one to the shower and one around the toilet will increase a home’s accessibility tenfold.
A Large, Walk-in Shower, Preferably With A Seat and Handheld Shower Head
This accommodation can be one of the toughest to find because they often require someone to redesign an entire bathroom’s layout. While people with extreme physical limitations can bathe without this feature, it is more challenging and often requires more assistance. So, while this isn’t a necessity, it is still a nice addition to have.
Non-Slip Mats in the Bathrooms and Kitchens
Even people without diagnosed conditions could benefit from the inclusion of non-slip mats in a home. Wet floors pose a threat to everyone, particularly people who already have difficulties with balance and mobility.
Wide Doorways and Light Doors
A person with a wheelchair does not want to scrape up the paint on the bottom of your doors, but they will do so to get a door open if necessary. Having a lightweight door can help massively in preventing this scenario from happening, particularly if the door frame is extra-wide.
Adequate Amount of Plugs
Most travelers need at least one plug available for a cell phone to charge overnight. A person with a disability may be traveling with an electric wheelchair, a breathing machine, a nightlight, or some other electronic/rechargeable assistive device. Ensuring that there are a fair amount of plugs in every room can really make a huge difference, even if an extension cord is needed!
Lots of seating options
Someone with a chronic illness may need to take frequent breaks when meandering around a home. Having seating available in every room can help prevent falls or other accidents from occurring. If possible, try to ensure that the seating you do provide is stable and try to avoid anything that shifts around easily. An unhelpful option, for example, would be a metal, folding-chair.
Jessica Ping-Wild graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in English literature in 2019. She now works as a blogger, a freelance content creator, and a disability advocate. Traveling is one of her favorite things to do and her favorite destination (so far!) was Paris, France.