Maintaining a home
Home modifications for individuals with disabilities
15 September 2023
Modifying homes can greatly improve accessibility for people living with a disability or older Aussies. Changes can range from simple adjustments — like adding non-slip surfaces in bathrooms, to larger renovations — like widening doors or installing wheelchair ramps. Government support may also be available to assist with some of the costs, depending on eligibility requirements.
What to consider before modifying your home
Contact your insurer
Let your insurer know before any renovation work commences, so you are aware of any conditions and exclusions that may apply. You may also need to or want to update the value of your home that's listed on your policy — also known as the ‘sum insured’ — once the modifications are complete.
With Suncorp Insurance, if you have been injured at home as a direct result of an insured event covered by your Building Policy, and become permanently paraplegic or quadriplegic, we'll cover the reasonable and necessary costs of home modifications, or assist your relocation to a new residence. Limits and exclusions apply, so please read the PDS.
Speak with your nearest Housing Service Centre
They can arrange for an occupational therapist to evaluate your needs and may recommend additional modifications to improve your:
- health, and
- living conditions.
Standard Aussie doors are typically 82 centimetres wide, which is short of the minimum requirement of 85 centimetres for most wheelchairs, walkers and rollators. If your door type allows, consider replacing the standard door hinges with offset hinges to gain the necessary extra centimetres.
If this option isn't feasible, you may need to consult a professional such as a carpenter. They have the expertise to safely remove and reframe the current door while ensuring your home's structural integrity remains unaffected.
Use lever door handles
Lever door handles are a more convenient alternative to traditional doorknobs as they eliminate the need for twisting motions, which can make a great difference to those with mobility impairments.
Make bathrooms accessible
Bathrooms can be made more accessible and safer in several ways:
- Install grab rails next to the toilet, shower and bathtub.
- Purchase a shower seat or attach one onto the shower wall.
- Add slip-resistant mats.
Lower countertops and sinks
Individuals with limited mobility or lack of balance may encounter difficulties in the kitchen — even with simple tasks like reaching for items, washing dishes or placing pots on the stove.
Baseless or lowered countertops and sinks can be a helpful solution and can be customised based on individual needs.
Relocate light switches and power points
If required, an electrician can relocate light switches and power points to a height where they can be more easily reached.
You may also want to consider investing in smart home technology that can allow those with a disability to use their smartphone or voice control to unlock their doors, turn on lights and even adjust the home's air conditioner.
People experiencing mobility issues often need a ramp to access their home. If you're planning to construct one yourself, ensure it follows the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) guidelines — or seek the advice of a qualified builder.
Widen pathways and add lights
An unobstructed path from the driveway or front gate to the front door is crucial for those using a wheelchair or mobility aids. Widening pathways to at least one meter, removing tripping hazards and pruning overgrown vegetation can improve access to the home.
Adequate lighting along pathways, ramps and entrances can also help individuals with visual impairments.
Use easy-to-reach garden beds
Gardening is an enjoyable pastime that can be accessible to all. By incorporating raised garden beds or vertical gardens, individuals with limited mobility or difficulty bending down can still engage in gardening activities.
Modifications for sensory disabilities
Individuals with vision or hearing loss may face additional challenges in their home and require other home modifications such as:
- Tactile markings. Installing raised bumps or Braille markings along pathways, door frames and stairs can help those with visual impairments better navigate their home.
- Vibration alarms. Individuals with hearing impairments may need to install additional fire safety measures such as vibration alarms that notify them of a fire emergency through vibration or flashing lights.
Government aid for home modifications
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
The NDIS supports funding for home modifications for disabled children over 9 years old and disabled adults under the age of 65 (or 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples), depending on the situation.
First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDNA)
FPDNA provides advice and advocacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples needing to apply for home modification or housing strategy support from the NDIS.
Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP)
This program provides basic support to Australians over the age of 65 (or 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples). It’s designed to support independence in older Aussies, helping them stay in their homes and communities longer by offering subsidised modifications, such as alarm, rail and ramp installations.
There are also Home Care Packages designed for individuals with more complex needs.
Support for veterans
The Rehabilitation Appliances Program assists eligible veterans, war widows and widowers, and dependents based on their mobility and functional support requirements.
State-based support services
Besides national support organisations, there are also state and territory specific services available, depending on your eligibility. These services range from advocacy to the provision of occupational therapy and home modifications.
- ACT: Community Care Occupational Therapy
- NSW (and nationally): Home Modifications Australia
- NT: Disability Services
- QLD: Home Assist Secure
- SA: Domiciliary Equipment Service
- TAS: Tasmanian Community Care Referral Service
- VIC: Victorian Aids and Equipment Program
- WA: Community Aids and Equipment Program
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This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.
The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.