Not Wheelchair accessible stepsFunding Home Mods After Disability

Purchasing a home is an exciting experience for most people. It signals a new chapter in life. However, excitement can quickly spiral downward if disability strikes a member of the household and realization sets in that the house was not built to accommodate special physical needs. Remodeling a house to meet impairment requirements can be severely cost prohibitive and usually comes at a time when bills are already at a high point and cash is not free flowing. Here are some tips, suggestions and ways to remodel as well as sources of funding to help a person survive this time period.


Most severely disabled people or persons in wheelchairs need three immediate home modifications to make a house livable for them. These items are a ramp to access the house, doorways wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through and a roll-in shower. Of the three, the ramp is probably the easiest and least expensive.

Wheelchair ramps should be well-constructed to hold the weight of several heavy people as most people do not wait until a ramp is clear before getting on it themselves. An ideal ramp should be built one foot long for every inch in elevation which may require switch backs or landings that need to be wide enough to easily turn a chair without having to back up. Walking surfaces should be non-slip, especially when wet, and easy to clear from snow or ice. With current pricing, a properly built 24” high ramp will cost approximately $200 in supplies.

Doorways are typically more hassle. Only a seasoned carpenter should undertake this task as wall sections will need to be removed to allow replacement of framing surrounding the door. Most interior doors are 32” wide and wheelchairs should have 36” doors for comfortable passage. A pre-hung door can run upwards of $65 and labor can run a couple hundred per door; more if sheetrock repairs are required and walls need repainted.

Most difficult and expensive are bathroom remodels. Many bathrooms are not even big enough to get a wheelchair into and due to house construction become a mute point thus requiring a whole new bathroom to be constructed, a task that can easily run to $10,000 or more.

So how can the average cash-strapped person reduce the cost of home remodels? One of the most overlooked cost reduction is locating used supplies. Many communities have second hand home-builders stores. Often items like bathroom hand rails and sinks can be purchased much cheaper used than new.

Despite finding used items, remodeling costs can still run into the thousands and outside help may be necessary. Below is a list of sources where funding and other assistance can be sought.

Title III of the Older Americans Act provides for the local distribution of funds for home remodels for older Americans. To locate a distributor in your area call 800-677-1116 or visit

Rebuilding Together works with low-income homeowners to make residential repairs and health required modifications. Visit to find the closest chapter to you.

Modifications due to disability are sometimes covered by Medicare or Medicaid, especially if ordered by a doctor. Call Medicare at call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227 or TTY/TDD 1-877-486-2048) to discuss your personal needs.

The National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification (NRCSHHM) maintains a database of companies and organizations available to provide varying degrees and types of assistance. Visit the NRCSHHM website at

Check with the Community Action Partnership for possible funding. The goal of this organization is to assist people who are living in poverty. After receiving the medical bills you just might qualify for CAP programs. Find an Action Agency in your state by visiting CAP’s website at

Habitat for Humanity is well-known for building houses for people with disabilities. In some instances the costs may need to be repaid, but often the labor is volunteer and well-qualified to perform modifications which could save hundreds to thousands of dollars in labor cost.

One last area to consider in finding funding for home remodels for people with disabilities is the IRS. Many home improvements that are medically necessary are allowed as tax deductions, thus you may be provided a tax refund that may help cover some of the expense. The rules for this specific deduction are difficult to understand so we advise visiting with an accountant.

Life can turn on a dime. Unexpected illness and injury can make a previously comfortable house unlivable due to special physical needs. Before beginning a remodeling project take some time to research the help available to you in the form of labor, supplies and funding.



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