Stylish decor is for everyone, including people with disabilities. While certain tools and aids are a fact of life for a disabled person, the design team has never understood the lack of attention to decor that we sometimes see. The cold, impersonal “medical” look is just not necessary. Although a room may house medical devices and aids, the space can still be designed to be beautiful, with attractive and functional furniture, and beautiful fabric, lighting and decor.
These pointers allow you to make a room beautiful, but give enough room for special needs.
- Define a room’s theme in writing. Be specific in terms of colour, mood and style, and include patterns, such as a rooster motif in a kitchen, for example. If someone other than the disabled person is planning decor, be sure to include input from the person for whom the decor is intended.
- Decide on a focal point for your space — a fireplace, a view, a bed or an armoire.
- Do pick a “signature” piece to focus your decorating decisions, such as pottery, or dishes, a series of glass vases that embody the colours, scheme and style you’ve chosen.
- Consider the disability in all facets of living and in each room before you buy furniture or plan spaces. What are the person’s needs in order to maximize self-sufficiency, and how can you fulfil these needs? For example, in kitchens and rooms with hard flooring, use flooring with some cushioning such as cork or vinyl rather than ceramic to minimize the possibility of broken bones if a fall should occur.
- Co-ordinate fabric and floor before making any purchases or buying paint. Paint comes in thousands of shades, so paint decisions can be made later.
- Make sure you measure before you buy the large elements, such as flooring, window treatments and furniture. Add extra space for mobility aids such as walkers, wheelchairs and rails or other medical necessities. Make sure you have wide paths without obstruction, as well as sufficient room for the disabled person to move from wheelchair to armchair, or from bed to wheelchair, for example.
If the disabled person has limited strength in their fingers, we consider things like extra-large switches for lights and lamps. If the person has poor vision, we pay attention to things like large numbers on telephone pads, and the availability of a magnifying glass in the kitchen for reading recipes, or the bathroom for reading prescriptions.
Whatever the needs, design and decor for the disabled does not have to be a cold, sterile-looking design crime. Consider and plan carefully, and you will see function and good looks can go together, and the results are a real pleasure to live with!
Catch Arresting Design on W Network; see www.wnetwork.ca.