Adjusting to a disability isn’t easy. In addition to coping with the physical challenges, you’ll also need to take some important safety measures.
Having a disability can change your life in many ways. Something you normally take for granted – like taking a bath or frying an egg – can suddenly become dangerous. If you become visually impaired or need to use a wheelchair, will you be able to stay safe in your home?
People with mobility problems
If you use a wheelchair, cane or walker, try these simple measures to help keep yourself safe around the house. Ask a friend or family member to help you to:
- Move furniture away from main traffic areas.
- Tape down or remove area rugs.
- Install handrails on stairways that extend past the top and bottom steps.
- Move or tack down loose appliance cords to avoid tripping.
- If you live with others, keep an intercom (such as a baby monitor) in your room so they will hear any calls for assistance.
- Don’t use space heaters, electric blankets or heating pads. They can cause burns or fires.
- Install grab bars by the toilet and in the bathtub or shower stall.
- Use a shower stool and a handheld showerhead.
- Keep a fire extinguisher within reach.
If you need to evacuate because of a flood, hurricane or other natural disaster, it’s important to be ready.
- Wear an identification bracelet that provides information about your health condition.
- Know at least two ways to exit each room.
- Make sure doorways are wide enough for your wheelchair to fit and that exit ramps have been installed.
- If you live in an apartment, try to be on the ground floor.
- Have a phone by your bed in case of an emergency.
- Have a flame-resistant blanket.
Safety for the hearing impaired
How can a fire alarm help someone who can’t hear? Aside from having an escape plan in place, the hearing impaired can help protect themselves from fire by using a visual fire alarm with a strobe light.
Smoke alarms for the hearing impaired may also have a vibrating device that can be attached to the bed or under the pillow. Strobe lights over your bed may be bright enough to wake you up.
People with hearing problems can also install burglar alarms with strobe lights that work in the same way. Carbon monoxide detectors are also sold in stores. So are devices that flash when someone rings the doorbell or calls on the phone.
In addition to warning the person of a fire or intruder emergency, strobe light alarms can send a signal to a monitoring station. Personnel there will alert the police or fire department that the alarm has been set off.
Help for the visually impaired
People who are visually impaired can keep their homes safe by using lighting, color and contrast to keep them from falling.
- Have brightly colored lamps, tables, chairs and couches to make furniture easier to locate.
- Mark steps and ramps with a contrasting color to make them stand out.
- Install light switches on the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Keep night lights in hallways and bathrooms.
- Use decals on glass doors so the glass is easier to see.
People who are blind or visually impaired should be well familiarized with their home. This includes knowing how to get to the nearest exit and arranging an escape plan in advance.
Advice for anyone
These safety measures are important for everyone, especially if you have a disability:
- Identify the nearest emergency exit.
- Don’t smoke in bed and don’t smoke near oxygen sources.
- Replace any worn carpeting or loose flooring.
- Install smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide detector.
- Identify neighbors or family members who will help you in a crisis.
If you’re homebound, you might also want to consider a special alert system for added peace of mind. For a fee, you can get a watch-like device that lets you call for help with the touch of a button. A dispatcher can send help at once if you fall or have a medical problem, or there is an intruder, fire or other emergency. Some plans include video cameras that allow a dispatcher to see and hear the person who is requesting help.