If you have recently become disabled such that you need a wheelchair or scooter to get around, you may wonder how you are going to adapt your home to your new physical challenges. Before you start widening doorways, you should know that the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has certain requirements for ADA handicapped doors.
The Minimum Width
There is a minimum width requirement for all doors and doorways to make them handicapped-accessible. The minimum width is thirty-two inches. However, that might not be the width you need. Your wheelchair alone may be thirty-two inches, not counting the extra width of the wheels underneath. If you are also "plus-sized," your wheelchair could be as large as forty-eight inches across.
As long as the remodeling you do on doorways meets the minimum, it is acceptable to make the doorways wider. You need to make them wide enough to accommodate you, your chair, maneuvering distance on a curve, and a few other factors that affect easy accessibility to the rooms in your home.
Now that you cannot move through a door as quickly as you did before, doors need to move just as slowly. Make sure that when the contractor working for you installs the doors, he or she installs slow-moving hinges. Every time the door is opened fully, the hinges stick and the hydraulics slowly close the doors. It should give you just enough time to wheel your chair through before the door closes shut.
Motion detection doors allow you to open doors several feet from where your chair is. This makes opening doors a lot easier, especially if the doors are not weight-compliant for ADA requirements. This, of course, is a more expensive option for a home remodeling project, but they are worth it in the long run. (If you have a disease or disorder that will progressively take away your mobility, the motion detection doors can help you stay independent for a longer period of time.)
Change up Your Locks Too
You cannot reach up to lock a door. At least, you cannot reach the locks above your head (i.e., the ones you used when you were able to stand). ADA compliant locks insist that you place the locks at eye level or lower, where you can reach them, and make the locks easy enough for you to turn or twist. If you are having several doors replaced (rather than leave every room open to those in the hallways), discuss these changes in locks with your contractor.