Visitability Step 2: Wide doorways and pathways

Wide Doorways and Pathways

Once you’ve used the zero-step ramp or pathway and made it to the door of a home, your next challenge is to fit through the door! In order for a home to be visitable, the doorways in the home, exterior and interior, need to have a minimum of 32” of clear space to pass through (we recommend 36”!). Likewise, your hallways and other pathways must be wide and clear.

Let’s start with the doors. Many interior doors in homes, especially doors to bathrooms, are smaller than the 32” of clear space. And even when a door is 32” wide, the door blocks some of the clear space, thus reducing it by a few inches – which can be a lot when you’re in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller, or moving furniture. So, what to do?

Use your existing door and frame. There’s a pretty simple fix for a door that is already at least 32” wide: swing-clear hinges. Unlike regular hinges, swing clear hinges expand further, moving the door behind the frame, thus opening up clear space for people to pass through. To use the full amount space in the doorway, simply buy and install the swing clear hinges, available at hardware stores. Keep in mind, however, that swing-clear hinges will allow the door to open widely and may open it all the way to a wall. Door stoppers should be used to ensure walls are not damaged.

Home - Swing clear hinges (3)

Use your wall. If the doorway is too small for the clearance space you need and swing clear hinges are not a solution for your home, your next option is to widen a doorway. This isn’t a huge demolition project. In fact, it’s a pretty easy DIY if you have some prior home improvement knowledge. Check out the links below for some how-to instructions:

Now let’s talk about the travel paths throughout your home. Not all pathways through the home have to be wide enough for wheelchair usage, but the main path through the house (and connecting to the bathroom) should be. To achieve wider hallways, space can be taken from adjacent rooms (just not the bathroom) or, if the house is able to have a more open floor plan, hallways can be eliminated. For example, in a home with a wall separating the dining room and the kitchen, the wall can be knocked down, allowing for a more open area to move through the house. Be careful of walls that might support the structure – those cannot be torn down. Consult a contractor for more information on moving/ demolishing walls.

And don’t forget to keep all your travel paths clear of loose rugs, extension cords, and unnecessary furniture.

When making a home visitable, think logically. You’ll want the door at the zero-step entry to be at least 32” wide, if not 36”. The pathway from that door to the rest of the main floor should also be wide enough to ensure that people in wheelchairs can maneuver through the home. Up next, the bathroom and beyond!

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