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Living space adjustments after a spinal cord injury
After a spinal cord injury, you will probably need to adjust your living space to the new conditions. Adapting the space is important for you to be able to perform your daily activities and to ensure that you have the highest level of independence possible.
Step one - consultations
It is best for you to start planning your space adaptation by consulting your therapist. You can also seek advice from different associations. A “peer consultant” with a similar injury can also help you with their experience.
If more significant interventions are needed in the adaptation of your living space, you should also consult construction experts. In case you do not own the space in which you live, you will also have to talk to the owner of the property and ask for their approval for any changes you plan to do.
What do you need to consider when planning adjustments?
Level and type of injury — different injuries require a different approach to space adjustments. For example, a person with paraparesis will need smaller adjustments than a person with paraplegia.
Your living space — different types of space require different types of adaptation. The necessary changes will depend on whether you live in a house with an inner staircase or in an apartment without stairs.
Individual features - space is always adapted to individual needs. This is why you need to take into account your age, occupation, interests and whether you live alone or with others.
Most common changes
The most likely changes that await you are the adaptation of the passage between the rooms and the adaptation of specific rooms such as the bathroom.
The most important adaptation is the one of the passages between the rooms you use every day. If you use them, you need to check the dimensions of the wheelchair and of all the important doors/passes to ensure that you can move smoothly.
If possible, it is important that the doors open outwards and not inwards, to avoid the danger of blocking them in case of falling from the wheelchair.
The bathroom is particularly important and financially perhaps the most demanding room for adaptation.
The adaptations that will probably be necessary in the bathroom are: the installation of handrails, the installation of a washbasin with a stand or a wall-hung washbasin in order to have easier access with the wheelchair, the installation of an appropriate tap with a handle which is easy to manage and the installation of a roll-in shower which does not have a barrier to the bathroom, but is separated by a mild slope instead.
Apart from all the necessary modifications, it is extremely important that you make sure that you have sufficient room for moving your wheelchair around the bathroom.
In case you have a staircase or doorsteps that present an obstacle to you, you may need to set up wheelchair ramp slopes and consider installing an elevator. Some of the minor adaptations you can use are changing the position and height of switches, sockets, knobs, counters and cabinets (especially kitchen cabinets) so that you can continue to use them.
If you have an outside space and use a wheelchair, it is important that you ensure you have a solid base on which you can move with your wheelchair around the yard. The base needs to be strong enough (e.g. concrete) to ensure that the trolley does not sink and wide enough to sure that the wheels do not slip over the edge. Ramp slopes can help you move in the outside space as well.
Additional practical tips for space adaptation
Adaptation of space — what is important for you?
The adaptation of space can be summarised in three main principles: accessibility, practicality and safety. Everything you need should be made accessible so that you can live as independently as possible. It is also important that you take into account the practicality of space in order to make the most of it, but do not forget to keep your safety in mind in the process.
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