A More Accessible Home for a More Inclusive Family

by: Caitlin Hoff

Someone who was born with a disability or grew up from a young age with an impairment can tell you that for them, it is their “normal.” They have grown up instinctively adapting to an able-bodied world. What we don’t often talk about is a parent’s initial adjustment to their child’s disabilities. Overtime, these parents become expert caretakers and passionate advocates for their child and other children with disabilities, but it’s not an overnight change.

There is a huge knowledge gap that these parents face, and for many parents who receive a diagnosis in the delivery room, there isn’t time to prepare for the sudden life changes. We overlook that apart from the new parenting challenges a person might face while raising a child with a physical disability, they will also experience social stigma, financial burdens, and in some cases, the need to make home modifications for their child. Today, we are going to focus on how parents can create a more accessible home for their child with physical disabilities or impairments.

Removing Physical Barriers

To a person without a disability, a door knob is just a door knob. To someone with Klumpke’s palsy or another birth injury that affects motor function in the hand or arm, a door knob can be physical barrier limiting their mobility, independence, and participation with the rest of the world. We can all admit that our world was originally built for “able-bodied” individuals. While there are industrial designers, politicians, advocates, and urban planners pushing for more inclusivity in public spaces and consumer products, we aren’t there yet. People with disabilities still face many physical barriers like door knobs rather than handles and narrow hallways that can constrict a wheelchair’s mobility. By removing these physical barriers in a home, a family can bring more than mobility to their child with disabilities. They can offer their child confidence, comfort, and a sense freedom that they might not otherwise always have outside their home.

Identifying Unique Needs

We mentioned some common physical barriers that people with disabilities face, but it’s important to remember that not all people living with a physical disability require the same home modifications. Understanding and identifying a child’s specific needs can be difficult for parents of a newborns; some home modifications won’t be apparent or necessary until the child gets older. Nonetheless, as parents begin to discuss these home modifications, a great resource to bring into the conversation is an occupational therapist. While monitoring your child’s abilities at a young age, an occupational therapist will be able to make educated, expert recommendations for inevitable home modifications that your child will need as they grow.

Finance Options

Depending on the home modifications that your child requires, the contractor bills can add up. For a family already covering medical expenses or the other essential costs that come with raising a child with physical disabilities, the added cost of home modifications can be overwhelming. There are some options that families can consider to reduce the financial burdens of home modifications.

  • If a child is disabled or impaired as a consequence of an injury sustained at or shortly after birth like in the case of non-congenital cerebral palsy, the family may have the right to seek a lawsuit against the attending physician and/or medical facility for medical malpractice. While it can be a large undertaking for these families to take legal action, it can also provide monetary resources for long-term care that they may otherwise not be able to afford for their child.
  • Another option for parents seeking resources for their child with disabilities is to connect with a disabilities advocacy group or local Centers for Independent Living (CIL) in their area. These organizations are devoted to bringing accessibility to public and private spaces, and many of these organizations also have programs to help fund home modifications.
  • Families may also seek financial assistance through several different home improvement-specific loans like an FHA Title 1 loan or Section 203(k) rehabilitation mortgage. These two financial options specifically can be used together providing more assistance if necessary to make a home livable. 

Adapting to a child’s disability takes time and a significant amount of education for new parents, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful situation. It’s important to share useful knowledge like this to help families ease into some of the adjustments ahead of them. By utilizing the advice of experts and advocates, these families can work to improve the quality of life for their child both at home and in the rest of the world world. As we circulate knowledge and come to understand the challenges people with disabilities and their families face, the closer we can get to living in an inclusive world.

Bio: Caitlin Hoff uses her background in product design and her passion for health and wellness to educate consumers. She aims to shine awareness on important consumer topics that affect people everyday. Through her writing, Caitlin hopes to guide families and individuals to make smarter decision and improve their overall quality of life. For more pieces by Caitlin and for more consumer health and safety news, follow https://twitter.com/ConsumerSafetyO.