Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"The Safety Component Of Gaining Access To A Home"

Safety in and around the home begins as we approach the home but before we ever gain access - whether it's our home, a home we are visiting, or someone is coming to visit us.  Avoiding obstacles in just getting to the front door must happen before we can gain access to the home to begin enjoying what is inside. Whether we or our clients - or someone coming to visiting us or them - is using a walker or wheelchair to make our way to the front door, it needs to be a safe experience.

Sure the doorway is important, but the safe passage from the street to the front door matters a great deal as well. If we can't arrive safely and comfortably at the front door (generally the entrance for visitors, if not the occupants of the home as well), the inside experience is of little consequence.

Having a clear pathway to the front or side door (if this is the preferred entrance for the homeowners and their immediate neighbors) is as important as having one that is wide enough, stable enough in footing, and level or with a gentle incline.

Tripping over objects, stepping on them, or negotiating one's way around items in the yard or on the walkway definitely affects access because it forms a barrier - from subtle to severe depending on what is involved. Sometimes, it the things that otherwise look like they fit in with the overall landscape that cause the issues - sand, gravel, weeds or grass growing into the walkway, small fallen branches or leaves, and sprinklers in use are such examples.

Having a clear, unimpeded pathway - one that does not present any obstacles or challenges that might interfere with walking or using a walker, wheelchair, or other type of mobility assistance - is a safe way to approach a home. This is true regardless of weather conditions or time of day or how someone is getting to the door. This is the responsibility of the homeowners to provide this level of safety - for themselves and their household as well as their guests and visitors.

When someone does get to the entry door, are they able to actually touch the door handle without issue? If they need to open it, can they? If they are to wait to gain entry, is there a safe way for them to wait so that the door opening does not contact them or interact with their space? Did they need to climb steps before they could get to the door and were those steps spaced a uniform distance apart and with closed treads? Were they constructed so that they provide solid, safe footing? Railings?

As they wait by the door to gain access to the home, what about the surface on the stoop or porch in front of the door - is it a concrete stoop, a wooden landing, or a porch? Is it well-lit at night or on cloudy days? Is there sufficient protective covering to provide insulation from hot the sun or driving precipitation so they can wait comfortably for the door to be opened? Does is truly offer protection rather than just being there as an accessory?

Can they open the door and enter without pulling the door into themselves (some entry doors and all storm doors and screens doors open outward)? Are they in danger of falling off the porch or stoop to avoid being hit by the door or to attempt to step out of the way to allow it to open?

Regardless of who occupies the home and whether they are the ones who are attempting to enter it or it is guests they have invited or visitors who appear at their door, the safe approach from the street or driveway needs to anticipated and planned. The safety aspect should be intentional. As aging in place professionals, we know how to make the walkway, waiting area, and entrance safe and comfortable. This is our charge to help our clients create this.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.