Not all people begin life with disabilities, but most of us will need some kind of assistance as we experience the normal process of aging. Living at home within a community increases self-esteem, which can improve mental and physical health. Another reason to help people remain at home when they are having difficulties with mobility or communication is that the cost of living at home is generally far less expensive than in an institutional setting. There is almost unlimited potential for assistive technology to provide cost-effective ways to remain independent and productive at home.
Many modifications are relatively inexpensive, “low tech,” and easy to install, while others are more complicated. Examples of home modifications include widening the door so a person in a wheel chair could get through it, installing a hand-held shower, grab bars or a high toilet in the bathroom, putting lever handles on the doors, using rocker light switches, wrapping pipes to prevent accidental burns, or adding a ramp. Lifts or environmental control units can also be considered home modifications.
Laws help ensure the accessibility of public buildings and affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities. The National Affordable Housing Amendments of 1990 (P.L. 101-625) provide for subsidized housing programs for people with disabilities. The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (CFR Part 100) includes guidelines for accessible restroom facilities, parking, entryways, and addresses the rights of people who live in federally-subsidized housing.
The National Association of Home Builders Directory of Accessible Building Products discusses building products and modified household appliances. The Home Builders Association in Columbia has specific information about South Carolina builders. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) publishes articles on housing and The Do-Able Renewable Home, which discusses appliances and modifications for convenience and safety. The Center for Universal Design is a national research, information and technical assistance center that evaluates, develops and promotes accessible and universal design in buildings. They offer many useful publications, including information about funding. The Clemson Extension service provides information about building and remodeling homes for accessibility.
Funding for home modifications is required by the Medicaid Act, Title I, Title VII, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Amendments of 1988. These laws provide a right to funding assistance for home modifications needed by people with disabilities. Private insurance companies may pay for home modifications. The Vocational Rehabilitation Department may pay for ramps and some home modifications for people who qualify for their services, if these modifications enable the person to become or stay employed. Medicaid’s Home and Community Based Waiver can fund a ramp and/or home modifications as part of an array of in-home services which enable people to live at home instead of a nursing facility. However, a person cannot be made eligible for this waiver, just to get a ramp. Contact the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs for more information about this waiver. The Department of Veterans Affairs will pay for ramps and home modifications to qualified veterans, described in VA Pamphlet 26-69-1, Questions and Answers on Specially Adapted Housing and Special Housing Adaptations for Veterans.
The Easter Seals Society has independent living funds for things like bathroom modifications and auto adaptations, as well as ramps for people who qualify, based on available funding in a particular county. The Disability Action Center also helps with ramps and some home modifications to people who qualify for their services. Local building supply stores sometimes donate lumber for ramps to people who qualify through an agency like Easter Seals. The Telephone Pioneers may help build a ramp if someone else supplies materials. Contact the South Carolina Assistive Technology Program (SCATP) for information on home modifications, a checklist to use in assessing a home for accessibility, instructions on how to build a ramp, a list of builders who build ramps, or a list of vendors who carry portable ramps.
Lowe's provides support to the military with a year-round 10 percent discount for active, reserve, retired and disabled military personnel and immediate family members. This can be especially important for those needing to build ramps or other home modifications, like roll in showers or additional handrails. Lowe's also carries many assistive technology devices: bath chairs/benches, grab bars, "tall" toilets, toggle light switches, just to mention a few. This would be for older vets needing changes, returning vets from IRAQ, and their families that have children with disabilities.
Contact Lowe’s Companies, Inc.
Katie Cody, 704-758-4309, Katie.B.Cody@lowes.com or
Julie Yenichek, 704-758-4364, Julie.V.Yenichek@lowes.com
If you are having trouble with funding or have been denied funding, contact Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities or the Disability Action Center. Contact SCATP for a copy of “Common Funding Excuses - Home Modifications.” If consumers are persistent in funding requests and appealing requests that are denied, the way is paved for other people who seek funding later.
SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN)3440 Harden Street Ext
Columbia SC 29240
(803) 898-9600 Voice/TDD
SC Vocational Rehabilitation1410 Boston Avenue
Post Office Box 15
West Columbia, SC 29171
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)1-800-424-3410
National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)400 Prince George Blvd
Upper Marlboro, MD 20072
Home Builders Association of South CarolinaPO Box 725
Columbia, SC 29202-0725
Disability Action Center136 Stonemark Lane, Suite 100
Columbia, SC 29210
South Carolina Office of Veterans AffairsBrown State Office Building
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 226
Columbia SC 29201
Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities3710 Landmark Drive Suite 208
Columbia, SC 29204
Center for Universal Design - NC State UniversityPO Box 8613
Raleigh, NC 27695-8613
Online Information Resources:
AARP Home Modification: Self-Help Guide (National Edition)
RESNA Home Modification Resource Guide