Most homes have not been built with the needs of the disabled and aging populations in mind. Fortunately, there are many home modifications that can allow you to remain safely and independently in your own home. Examples include: grab bars, lever handles for doors and faucets, widening doorways, no-step showers, zero-step entrances, brighter lighting, and ramps. 

Some of these modifications will require a homeowner to hire a contractor to do the work, but some are simple and inexpensive enough for you or a family member to install or implement and can make a tremendous difference in your day-to-day life. 

No-Cost Home Improvements 

  • Open blinds and curtains to increase natural light inside the home 
  • Place electrical and phone cords along a wall so they aren’t a trip hazard 
  • Set hot water heater to 120 degrees or below to protect against scalding 
  • Ensure rugs or carpeting is firmly attached and will not move under foot 
  • Arrange furniture to allow for easy passage. Clean up clutter that could become trip hazards 
  • Check outdoor walkways for loose bricks or uneven pavement that may cause a fall

Low-Cost Home Improvements (under $35)

  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of the home 
  • Install bright bulbs (60-75W) to ensure good lighting 
  • Install night-lights in bathrooms and hallways 
  • Apply nonskid or nonslip strips in tub or shower 
  • Replace knobs on cabinets and drawers with easier to grasp D-shaped handles 
  • Replace traditional light switches with easier to use rocker-style switches

Low-Cost Home Improvements (under $75) 

  • Place a sturdy waterproof seat in the tub and/or shower for greater comfort and safety while bathing 
  • Install a handrail on both sides of staircases 
  • Install level-style handles on doors 
  • Install a handheld, adjustable showerhead for easier bathing 
  • Mount grab bars next to the toilet and bathtub and inside any showers (avoid using
    suction cup-based grab bars as these can fail) 
  • Install easier to use lever style faucets 

Disaster Preparedness Tips

  1. Get a kit
  • Plan to make it on your own for three days 
  • Basic supplies to include in a kit:
  • Water and food for three days, including pet food 
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries 
  • First aid kit including a whistle 
  • Dust mask, duct tape, and plastic sheeting 
  • Wrench for turning off utilities
    Local maps 
  • Medications 
  • Important documents (family records, contact info, bank account info)

  1. Make a plan
  • Write it down! 
  • Create a list of personal emergency contacts 
  • Have a communication plan for family members
  • What to do for different scenarios (tornado/flood/ earthquake) 
  • Consider potential hazards 
  1. Be informed
  • Beware of common/potential hazards in your region 
  • Know local resources for information and assistance 
  • Sign up for alerts 

Habitat’s Critical Home Repair program can address some of these accessibility and safety modifications during repair projects. Homeowners must be income qualified and reside in one of our service areas to participate in the program. For more information, please visit (https://www.habitatskc.org/services/home-repair- program/ ), or call (206) 855-5214.