Ask the Pros: How to Make an Easy Living for Family Members with Disabilities

Posted by Steve Hart on Apr 14th 2022

We’d like to thank the people at for putting together this wonderful article, which provides advice and information about adaptations and modifications one should consider for a family member with a disability. Originally published on April 4th, 2022.

Each type of disability is different and requires special modifications to your house. Adaptations for every situation are key to creating a space where a member of your family with a disability can live a safe and happy life. That said, we’ve rounded up expert advice from professionals that offered some general rules to have in mind about adapting your house to a family member living with a disability.

What are the essential room adaptations you will need to make for children with limited mobility?

“The first thing is that the room needs to be as open as possible. A minimal amount of furniture should be placed in it. The floor should be smooth and soft (no tiles where a walker, cane, or wheelchair can get stuck). There should be rails along the walls to assist if need be and with soft lighting.”

Disabled Person

How to create a remote learning environment for students with disabilities at home?

“To create an optimum home learning space, the best thing you can do is ask your disabled child. Forego the old-fashioned notions that a student has to be sitting at an uncomfortable desk with both feet on the floor. If a lap desk on a beanbag chair is their preference, go for it!. Each of us has our own preferred level of light, sound, visuals, screen settings, and comfort.”

A Day in Our Shoes

What do parents need to know before buying sensory-friendly and adaptive shoes?

“Velcro or easy on shoes is a must. No tags, lots of room for wiggly toes, and not tight. interactive with bright colors and fun textures, easy to clean (any spec of dirt in or out could bother a child). For orthotics, the shoe must have a wide opening that can stay open when positioning to insert the foot. The closure must be adjustable and be secure. A customizable closer system such as the one on our Dean Adapt shoe style is ideal. The Dean Adapt has extra long straps but they can be cut to fit. “

See Kai Run

Tips for Hosting Playdates for Kids with Special Needs

  • “Create a schedule with your child ahead of the day so they will know what to expect.
  • Choose activities that are enjoyed by your child and are strengths for them (if they struggle with fine motor skills, don’t plan a craft project; if they are good at building, provide pillows and blankets to make a fort).
  • Use sensory activities such as finding small toys in a bin full of rice to include a calming element in the playdate.
  • While it is important to be nearby, allow the children to work together and problem solve on their own before stepping into a conflict.”

Amy Hengstebeck, Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor and Autism Treatment (West Bloomfield, MI)

How to be more inclusive with blind guests at home

“Whether you’re inviting a blind guest over for dinner or adjusting to a relative’s recent loss of vision, here are some tips to help make your home more accessible and comfortable.Keep the Floor Clear: Before your guest arrives, clear your floor of objects like shoes, toys, or books so your guest can navigate more easily.Describe Your Home: When your guest arrives, describe the setting as you would to any person, offering a simple orientation to help your guest feel at home.Introduce Pets: If you have a pet, let your guest know in case they have any allergies or issues. When they arrive, introduce your pet(s) so that your guest can become comfortable.Describe Meals: Describe what’s on the menu and offer to put a plate together for your guest. Envision a clock face to help your guest understand how the food is arranged on the plate.Provide Visual Updates: Try to be conscious of what you and your other guests are seeing, and offer to describe what’s happening. If you’re admiring a friend’s new watch, describe the color and style. If a new plate of food is set out, or guests are arriving, talk about what’s going on. Guide Your Kids: If you have young children, discuss how to interact with your blind guests. Let them know if a guide dog will be coming and not to interrupt the service work of the animal by petting or playing with it.”

Blind New World

What should people consider before building ramps at home?

“Before investing in any construction project to modify your home, check with your landlord or Homeowners Association. Generally, you cannot be prevented from having necessary disability-related accommodations, but there may be requirements for the style and types of materials you can use, especially for exterior modifications, and you may need to submit designs for approval before starting construction. Also, research the construction codes in your community and make sure you follow all codes requirements.Consider whether you need a wheelchair ramp or walker steps. A wheelchair ramp is a long, inclined surface, whereas walker steps are a series of shallow, platform-type steps. If you use a walker or cane, walker steps might be easier to navigate than a ramp. Take wheelchair safety into consideration. Make sure you have space for an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp. Measure the number of inches rising from the place your ramp will start to the endpoint. For each inch of rising, you need a foot of the ramp. This means you will have a very long ramp if you have steps of more than a few inches. If you don’t have construction experience, or if you aren’t familiar with codes and compliance regulations, get a professional to construct your ramp.”

United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee

What should parents consider before buying a standing power chair?

“When planning accessibility options for a child, one of the most important things to consider is their rapid growth. Since children and teens can sprout like weeds, taking into account the longevity and adaptability of their mobility aids is a big factor. When considering an investment in a standing power wheelchair, find out if it can be adjusted to accommodate the new height along the way. At Redman, we are able to fit our smaller 18×18 pediatric chair with a taller back and long legs as the child grows so the chair effectively grows along with the child. Another important aspect to incorporate for any adolescent is their overall physical development. When confined to a standard seated wheelchair during the day and laying flat at night, the body doesn’t get much chance to use many muscles. When you employ a standing and positioning wheelchair (also known as a complex rehabilitation chair, CRT), the core muscles in the body are able to be used and stretched regularly. The standing and other positions also allow for improved circulation, bladder function, spasticity, bone density, and a host of other clinical benefits – not to mention the mental health benefits that come with being able to stand up, be more independent, and talk with peers eye to eye!”

Redman Power Chair

What should parents know before buying sensory-friendly clothing?

“What is an in-depth deep dive into what your child’s needs are? This is the first thing to consider. What are they trying to help with or accomplish?

  • Sensory calming
  • Sensory alerting
  • Fabric aversions (tactile sensitivities) causing stress
  • Does your child understand how to dress? (conceiving the idea of how to dress (praxis)
  • What are the challenges to carrying out dressing even though they are physically able (praxis)?
  • Does your child have physical motor challenges due to a neurological or physical difficulty?
  • What are their fine motor skill deficits and abilities?
  • Do they need ease of function when they need to use the bathroom due to physical reasons, sensory reasons, or toileting reasons?
  • Do you describe your child as clumsy (sensory) and would have time challenges and motor function challenges?
  • Does your child constantly mouth or chew their clothing?
  • Do they have poor muscle tone?
  • Do they have poor tactile (touch) discrimination?
  • Do they demonstrate poor bilateral coordination?
  • Are there emotional concerns related to the sensory system overload?

Determine the aim of the intervention needed within the clothing Common accommodations for those that have some of these sensory, emotional, and motor-related issues include:

  • A lack of agitating labels and seams, or easy to remove tags and flat seams.
  • Any Tactile sensitivity
  • Ease of Function
  • Closure consideration: button size, zipper size, pull-overs, magnets, Velcro (What works best?)
  • Added layering/weight/compression for nervous system calming.
  • Relevant styling and color preferences
  • What is the fabric if your child tends to chew their clothing?
  • Washability and Wear and tear of the clothing.
  • Does the fabric retain its shape and purpose if looking for compression?
  • Safety of the product
  • Combating a child’s sensory sensitivity is crucial to their development. If they are worried about their clothing all day, they will not be able to participate in other enriching growth opportunities.

Based on the sensory integration technique, the added weight or pressure provides the special needs child with unconscious proprioceptive and deep tactile pressure information from their muscles and joints. As a result, they may better integrate sensory information and remain calmer. They may become more organized and improve their ability to concentrate, learn, and better engage in activities of daily living.”

Kozie Clothes

What are the best exercises for children in wheelchairs?

“All the exercises mentioned can improve a person who uses a wheelchair because they deal with movements that an individual does on a daily basis thus making their daily lives better. Shoulder press: Taking weight and pressing it above the head till the arms are almost straight then bringing it back down to chest level.Lateral Shoulder Raise: Taking a weight to the side of the body with one arm and raising it up till the arms are horizontal to each other.Tricep dips: Using either the chair or an elevated surface, press the body up using only the triceps.Seated chest press: While holding a weight at chest level, press the weight out til the arms are almost straight, then pull back to the chest.”

Equally Fit