The Thriver’s Guide: An Accessible Home for the Holidays!

December 1, 2014

Did you know that 70% of the population will have, at one time or another, difficulty climbing stairs or need to use a wheelchair?

An interesting statistic, I thought, for those of us living with rare conditions. We are definitely not alone in having to confront home accessibility issues.

During the holidays, we gather in our homes to celebrate with our family and friends and we want to make our homes safe and inviting for all visitors, especially our aging parents and relatives who may need a cane, walker, or wheelchair. Below are simple tips and strategies to make any home entertaining safer and easier for everyone.

  • Clear a path to your home. Seasonal decorations are lovely, however, when railings are wrapped in greenery; landings, porches and steps partially blocked by pots, pumpkins, or snowmen; and doors sport large wreaths, it makes it difficult for someone with low vision, poor balance, or difficulty walking to navigate safely. Decorate your home in a way that leaves all sidewalks, railings, stairs, and porches free of obstructions.
  • Create an accessible entrance. Is someone coming who uses a wheelchair or other mobility device? Before they arrive, consider the best way for them to enter your home. Where are the fewest steps? If it is to a lower level family room off the garage, consider having your meal there rather than in an upstairs dining room.
  • Consider a portable ramp. Does every entrance of your home require climbing a landing or a few steps? Consider renting, borrowing, or even purchasing a portable ramp. Many support organizations and Independent Living Centers have equipment lending libraries that may have one you can rent or borrow. For the nearest Independent Living Center see the state by state directory at You can view many available portable ramp styles at
  • Provide adequate lighting. As we age, we need more light to see. Candles and mood lighting that set a nice tone can create shadows and dark areas that become navigating and tripping hazards to someone with limited vision. Where most of the activity is centered, keep the lights festive and bright.
  • Create an open floor plan. Entertaining usually means more people and that means extra chairs, cramped rooms, and constricted and sometimes blocked pathways. Be sure to create at least one 30” wide corridor through the house — from the door to the main room to the table and the bathroom. This will allow an older person or someone with a walker or other mobility device to get around easier.
  • Place furniture in a way to encourage movement. Let heavy furniture provide support and temporarily remove low lying coffee tables, magazine racks, footstools — anything that is not necessary for your entertaining. Free up space on lamp tables, bookshelves, and even window sills for drinks to be handy to guests.
  • Keep clutter contained. Plan space for extra coats and purses so they are out of the way. Will shoes and boots remain at the door? Provide a mat to keep contained so no one will trip and fall over them.
  • Enhance hearing. If the TV will be a focal point (Game Day or a special holiday movie) and someone in your party is hard of hearing, use closed captioning; if they are a regular visitor, you might want to invest in an infrared or digital amplifying system such as TV Ears. For options available, contact the Center for Communication, Hearing, and Deafness

 For tips on making your whole home safer and more accessible for people with chronic illness, disability, or age-related limitations, visit my Website or look for my award winning book, Home Accessibility: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier™ at your favorite library, bookstore, or online retailer. (It makes a great stocking stuffer.)

Happy Holidays!


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