Small home exterior


Making a home accessible after a severe injury can be overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s one mom’s advice.

Posted By Megan Washburn


The Chicago Tribune


At Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, people arrive after lives change in minutes — a gunshot wound, a car crash, a stroke. When patients are discharged, they often need to approach their home differently. Occupational therapist Kelsey Watters said they first consider locations like the bathroom and the entry.

“Here in Chicago, we have a lot of walk-up units. Sometimes there are stairs before you enter,” Watters said. “Some of those very simple things can often be most challenging.”

Within the home, people consider entire renovations or smaller changes, Watters said, like adding accessible shelving in a kitchen or a tub bench in the shower.

“Instead of having to do a full remodel and put in a walk-in shower, somebody could just swing their legs over the edge of the tub and access the shower,” Watters said.

Occupational therapists also help patients think through whether they can operate things like light switches, televisions and computers. For example, someone with a spinal cord injury might have limited reach or hand control; a person with a traumatic brain injury might not have the cognition for organizing the home and figuring out appliances.

“Each situation is so unique,” said Janet Bischof-Rosario, an occupational therapist. She said they try to think of the simplest fixes, because this can be overwhelming for families.

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