Home Mods: A Hodgepodge of Mods

Terri Coleman’s extra-shallow steps make for less stressful climbing.
by Amy Madsen on September 1, 2008 - 10:16am

QUEST Vol. 15, No. 5

Simplify the bathroom

Push-button dispensers make washing and shampooing a much simpler task.

Alan Alderman of South Jordan, Utah, has ALS. He recommends one-button or touchless liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner dispensers as a simple but time- and energy-saving modification for the bathroom. Made to be mounted in corners or on walls, dispensers can be found in a wide variety of designs, including single and multi-chamber, and in a number of looks ranging from metal industrial, to classic solid colors, to modern clear. Some models include compartments forsponges, razors, or other shower accessories. Installation options include silicone, two-sided tape or other adhesive, or screw-mount. They can be found in kitchen and bath specialty stores, home improvement stores and online. (Try Better Living Products at www.dispenser.com.) Prices begin around $20.

Step sizes

Make managing stairs less difficult with short steps and half steps.

Terri Coleman of Evansville, Ind., overcomes stairclimbing difficulties caused by limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD), with a custom set of five short steps that measure 3 feet wide by 3 inches high, leading up to a landing outside the door between the house and garage. A handrail provides extra safety and support.

A simple attachment to the right side of the slide-out step allows Joyce Klein easier access to her RV.

In Anchorage, Alaska, Joyce Klein’s husband, Jerry, has fixed a half-step to the stairs leading up to their RV to help Joyce maintain independence despite weakness caused by myotonic muscular dystrophy. The modification is made of two 1-inch pieces of corrugated aluminum screwed together to become 2 inches high. It measures approximately 2 inches wide by 10 inches long. It’s attached to the side of the RV’s slide-out step with #10 screws, and rubberized epoxy makes it non-slip.

Tables and chairs

Coleman has found the perfect table and chairs set to make sitting and standing easy despite weakness caused by her limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. The table is 36 inches tall, and the counter-height stools measure in at 25 inches from seat to floor. Coleman tried out several types of seating and says solid-wood seats made standing up and sitting down much easier than padded ones did. Also, the stools rotate, allowing Coleman to slide in and turn to face the table. Oak Express (www.furniturerow.com) offers similar sets starting at approximately $530 for a table and four chairs.

The extended table height and swiveling, solid-wood seats make dining a more pleasurable experience.


Jimmy and Debbie Walker of Powder Springs, Ga., replaced all the carpet in their house with hardwood floors to make it easier to clean up after the power chair used by their son Jacob, who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). After consulting with a flooring specialist, they chose a pre-finished wood that had eight coats of finish applied prior to installation, making it able to withstand heavy traffic. The Walkers also chose to go with “tavern-grade,” or “cabin grade,” wood. This means the wood shows more knots and mineral streaks — Debbie says it lends more character to the floor and “we figured any marks or mishaps caused by the wheelchair would not be as noticeable.”

The Kleins have placed grab bars in many locations around their home, such as this one.

Note: There are attractive, durable, industrial-strength options for tile, vinyl and laminates in addition to hardwood. Flooring prices vary by area, and it’s best to consult a professional to be sure you wind up with a floor that suits your needs.

Debbie also recommends standard, clear plastic corner protectors, available at hardware stores in 8-foot strips that run for $5 to $10 dollars, as a means of protecting doorways from wheelchair wear and tear. She cuts the strips in 2-foot sections and applies them to the bottom portion of the inside of each doorframe with small nails. Although she has to replace them occasionally, she says it’s a much better option than having to replace the entire doorframe.

Grab bars go anywhere

When people think “grab bars,” the bathroom often comes to mind. But Klein points out that grab bars can be useful in many other rooms of the house (and motorhome). Grab bars can be purchased at hardware stores, some major retailers, and online, starting out at around $20. Make sure to look for ADA compliant grab bars; check that the weight capacity is sufficient, and always follow installation instructions.

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