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Tips for Interior Design with Disability Access in Mind

All too often homes or facilities designed to be accessible can feel clinical and un-homely as they take into consideration function over style.

But if you use SACARE’s facilities as an example, accessible interior design can still be made to feel warm and gorgeous.

With a few tips you can have your dream house, which has all of the accessible features necessary.

*At this point it is important to note that these are just suggestions. It is important when designing your house, that you consult necessary professionals and occupational therapists for feedback and recommendations before locking in designs. *

So where’s the best place to start?
Start by choosing a design direction. This may be through choosing a colour scheme you like, or maybe choosing a style (i.e scandi, modern Australian, etc). This can guide you when you’re looking for new furniture pieces, decorations and soft furnishings.

Now, the basics when it comes to disability design:
You need to make sure there is at least one accessible entrance, whether it is by leveling the ground or including a ramp to the home. If your home is double story, you need to have accessibility to the second level.

(Tolley House at Hope Valley uses a wheelchair lift to solve the stair problem)

Make sure space is wide enough to fit a wheelchair and equipment through. Wide walkways are important, whether it is in a hallway or doorway. Also take space into account when buying furniture. Make sure you carefully measure and plan living spaces and bedrooms. Leave room around couches, beds, tables, etc. so a wheelchair can move with ease in the space. Make sure there is room to move while still being able to access it, while taking into account space taken by lifting aides. Also try to avoid long narrow hallways; these can be a nuisance and near impossible to manoeuvre in a wheelchair.

(Briarholm at Kingswood utilises large manoeuvreable hallways)

When designing a bathroom, think about space needed around a toilet. In our new development ‘The Gums’ at Salisbury, bathrooms will be equipped with toilets that can move left and right for flexibility and space.If you are opting for a hard-fixed permanent loo, make sure there is room for someone in a wheelchair to use it.

Choose your floor surfaces carefully! This is especially important if there are support workers helping in wet areas. Flat non-slip flooring is the way to ensure everyone stays safe. Yes linoleum can be ugly, but it is often an excellent (and cost-effective) solution in a wet area as it is slip resistant. And there are definitely more stylish options than what there were 30 years ago. Another option is tiles with a grain in them. The grain adds traction, which means they avoid being too slippery when wet. Although, they sometimes can be tough to clean as dirt can become stuck in the small grooves. Really try to avoid extremely smooth surfaces as these become slippery easily and can be very unsafe.

Think about heights. Light switches, door handles, emergency buttons and control panels all need to be installed low enough for someone in a wheelchair to reach.

Kitchens and bathroom counters should be at an accessible height for a wheelchair, and have room for the wheelchair to fit underneath.

(Ben preparing a tasty meal as he fits under the kitchen counters at Adelaide Street, Magill)

Height adjustable furniture is the way of the future! If there are a few people of different heights living in your house, maybe adjustable counters and tables are the way to go?

These counters and tables have remote controls and can be raised or lowered depending on who is using them. You can even buy upper and lower kitchen cabinets that lift the contents lower or higher for ease of access. If you want to have a better look or purchase these types of products have a look at

Let’s be real though, not everyone has the budget to buy these technologies... so a good rule of thumb when building cabinets or buying tables is to measure from the floor to just above the leg of the tallest wheelchair user, so anything you buy will DEFINITLEY fit everyone below it.

When considering bathroom sinks try and pick something shallow with the drain toward the back. A shallow sink means that a wheelchair can fit below, at least or nice and close. Having the drain at the back will help to stop over flow and splash back from falling into the individual’s lap, hopefully!

(Tolley house's gorgeous bathroom has a stylish sink with plenty of room underneath)

Let’s get a bit more intimate and move into the bedroom...
Well maybe not exactly into the bedroom, but whatever room you keep your clothes in...

Having plenty of room to store clothing while still being accessible can be a bit difficult when tall wardrobes are your only option. Right? Well not anymore! A fabulous new piece of technology that has been introduced in recent years is a wardrobe that uses a system that lowers and extends the top racks for you. It uses a remote, so the user can control what height the clothing comes down to. This gives people more independence to choose their clothing, or even to just hang up clean clothing.

It is also a good idea to have ceiling lifters in your bedroom, and extending to the bathroom if possible. Ceiling lifters can help make getting in and out of bed easier and safer for support workers or helpers.

(Adelaide Street's and all of SACARE's facilities have ceiling lifters installed) 

And for our last hot tip, think artwork! Artwork is a really simple and cost effective way to brighten up walls and bring personality to a space. This can also be a great solution for rental properties as it is not permanent and you can move them around to freshen up a space.


Hopefully these tips will come in handy when designing your new dream space.
One final tip to remember: make sure your new space works for you! Being beautiful is one thing, but make sure it is practical. Day to day life can get untidy, so don’t get too hung up on the beauty of things, because in the end it is still your home and you have to feel comfortable!

SACARE will be incorporating these rules and more within their new Facility “The Gums” which will be designed by Brown Falconer Architects. If you’d like to know more information about this state of the art rehabilitation centre click here: We will be taking enquiries from May 2018.



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