Disability Apartments: looks and features you might find
There’s a misconception that handicap accessibility for apartments is related to ADA compliance, which it’s not. Federal laws related to accessibility requirements DO apply to public and common use areas, as well as most dwelling units in newer apartment complexes. (Learn more here)
That being said, many apartment homes provide accessibility and have one or two handicap–accessible units in their building. So what might a handicap-accessible apartment look like? Here’s what you can expect to see in a disability apartment, and how it will help you (or the person you’re helping) in daily life.
Entryways and Hallways
Entryways will be wider into all rooms to accommodate a wheelchair. Hallways in handicap–accessible homes are wider to accommodate a wheelchair.
Flooring in these units is typically vinyl, or a thin flat carpet to make it easier get around.
In a fully-accessible unit, there will be a space for a wheelchair under the sink and the plumbing will have been arranged to accommodate this.
Cabinets in units which are fully handicap–accessible will be lower than those in a regular unit.
Counter tops will also be lower, to make the workspace accessible from a wheelchair. There will also be an open space under the kitchen sink so the tenant can roll right up to it. If the apartment kitchen has an island, there is typically a space for a wheelchair under the island.
Handicap–accessible appliances, such as the stove, will have all the knobs on the front instead of along the back panel, making them easier and safer to reach.
Bathrooms will have grab bars and roll-in showers. Some are equipped with a bench as well. (If not, mobile benches are easy to find for purchase). You’ll see another space under the bathroom sink, to allow access by a wheelchair. Toilets are higher, and will have grab bars.
Light switches are lower to be accessible from a wheelchair.
Doorways and Access
If the apartment is at all elevated, a ramp will provide access to any door above ground level. Hallways leading to the door will be sufficiently wide for a wheelchair.
Handicap-designated parking spaces are set aside and marked for use by residents with handicaps or wheelchairs. In most cases, they will be adjacent to the unit, or very near, with a clear flat pathway from the door to the parking space. Some may allow unloading from a van: inquire with the management if you need this type of parking.
Common areas of newer apartment complexes with handicap accessible units are designed to accommodate renters in wheelchairs. Common area hallways are very wide, and light switches are lower. You can find ramp access to sidewalks, and elevators where needed to reach common areas.
Disability Apartments FAQs
Can I be charged more for a handicap–accessible home?
These apartments should be the same cost per month as a similar non-accessible apartment.
No handicap–accessible apartments are available; what options do I have?
If you can’t find an accessible apartment, one option is a make the modifications to a regular unit. You would need to give your landlord the doctor’s note, and ‘reasonable accommodation’ paperwork. Once this paperwork is approved by the apartment manager, you can get started on your modifications right away. Bear in mind you are responsible for the costs to modify the unit, and also to restore it back to its original condition, prior to move out. This can be costly, but it can be done.
Hunting for an apartment home while confined to a wheelchair can have some challenges. Make sure you ask the landlord if they have accessible units available for rent before you go to the trouble to visit. Tour the complex to ensure that it’s easy for you to get around, and has the features you need to be comfortable.
Being in a wheelchair does not have to hold you back from having an excellent quality of life, in your new home.