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Home Modifications

Information about paying for home modifications, accessible home design and how to become your own self-advocate requesting modifications.

1. How to Pay for Modifications?

1.1. Advice and Resources to Help you Afford Modifications

Several federal laws give people with disabilities the right to modify their homes, but often unless the housing is subsidized with federal funds tenants must assume the cost of these modifications. Read this article to learn more about what resources are available and other opportunities to help finance any needed modifications.  

 

1.2. Access Loans

What are Acess Loans? Access Loans are for any product, device, or building modification designed to assist someone with a disability.

 

1.3. Home Funding

How to Pay for It?

The two largest barriers to assistive technology and related goods and services are lack of information and funding. Hopefully, we've provided you with all the information and resources you'll need to get started on modifying your home to make it more livable. Now the only thing standing in your way is money. Below is a long list of possible avenues of financial assistance to pursue. They were collected from many sources, such as the Illinois Tech Act Project, the Center for Accessible Housing, Administration on Aging, and the AARP, to name a few. These are also organizations that will assist you in your efforts. We hope you'll see something you hadn't thought of before.

Independent Living Centers
These centers provide information and referrals on how to get funding in your area. There are approximately 400 independent living centers around the country. For the name of the one nearest you, contact the National Council on Independent Living Centers at (703) 525-3406 (V); (703) 524-3407 (TDD). Most states have a state independent living council (SILC) that can give you a referral. See the Directory of Centers for Independent Living, http://www.virtualcil.net/cils (Click on your state for the CILs nearest you.)

Federal Sources

  • Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS)
    Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    allows recipients of this program to set aside income toward an approved plan for achieving self-support without jeopardizing benefits. This plan will cover modifications to a home through an SSI savings plan. Call (800) 772-1213 for information.
  • USDA Rural Development, Section 502
    The Direct Rural Housing Loan Program, Section 502, provides assistance to very low, and low income owner-occupied households. The Guaranteed Rural Housing Loan Program provides assistance to households with moderate incomes to buy, build, improve, repair or rehabilitate rural homes. Call (202) 720-4323 for information.
  • Veterans with disabilities may contact their service officer to determine how much modification the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) will pay. Also ask about the Veteran's Administration Home Adaptation Grant Program. For literature and details on programs, contact the Paralyzed Veterans of America: (202) 872-1300 (V), (202) 872-1300, ext 622 (TTY), (202) 785-4452 (FAX).
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD Homes) has various programs for low income families and persons with disabilities. Check government pages in your directory for contact information.
  • The Accessible Customized Environments Program (ACE) locates, purchases, rehabilitates or modifies homes that have been pre-sold to qualified families with a member who has a physical disability. Contact ACE at Extended Home Services: (847) 215-9490.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS): deductions are allowed for certain modifications such as installation of ramps, widening doorways, modifying kitchen cabinets and equipment, moving or modifying electrical outlets and fixtures, fire alarms, and smoke detectors. Accessibility features are considered medical expenses. Check with your local office or tax attorney for details.
  • Federal Medicaid Waiver programs are available and variable on a state or local level.
  • Federal Title XXI Social Security funds are available and variable on a state or local level.
  • The Federal Older Americans Act is administered through state Boards on Aging and/or state and local agencies. Check for local listings in government pages of directory.

State

  • Check with your State for special, low interest loans and grants.
  • Your State's Vocational Rehabilitation program may pay for such things as ramps if the ramp allows a person to get to his or her job.
  • The Rural Developments office provides 502 or 504 loans in rural areas. Low income homeowners over 62 also qualify for grants under 504 to build and repair their homes. Contact your local SDA/Rural Developments county office.
  • Check for State sales tax exemptions and deductions; State and local property tax credits or abatements.

Local Government
Inquire of your city, town, or county for special housing programs. Try your alderman or local congressman's office for information on housing repair programs. Programs are granted to low income families and may include kitchen or bathroom modification or ramp installation.

Access Home Modification Program
The Access Home Modification Program provides mortgage loans (up to $10,000) to assist persons with disabilities or who have a family member(s) living in the household with disabilities who are purchasing homes and need to make accessibility modifications. This program provides a deferred payment loan, with no interest or fees, and no repayment until the house is sold, transferred, or the first mortgage is paid off or refinanced. www.phfa.org/programs/singlefamily/ahm.htm

Center for Accessible Housing (CAH)
CAH publishes fact sheets, such as Financing Home Accessibility Modifications, Home Financing for Older People, Benefits of Accessory Unit Housing for Elderly Persons with Disabilities, The Housemate Agreement, and technical packages for using grab bars, universal design, etc. Contact: Center for Accessible Housing at North Carolina State University, (919) 515-3082.

Christmas in April
This is a volunteer project around the country that takes place on the first Saturday in April. Volunteers organize painting parties or make repairs to low income, elderly, and disabled homeowners. Contact Christmas in April USA (try the Internet) for group near you or start your own.

Community Projects
Many organizations organize repair projects for elderly persons or persons with disabilities. Organizations may include your neighborhood association or community groups, churches, synagogues, Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, Little Brothers of the Poor, Jaycees, Agency on Aging, senior centers, building trade unions, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Kiwanis Clubs, sororities, fraternities, high school volunteerism, YMCA, Knights of Columbus, Rotary Clubs, Lion's Clubs, B'nai B'rith, Masons, or 4H Clubs. Inquire about interest in a community project or see if you can propose one.

Foundations and Donor's Forums
Foundations are nonprofit organizations that support charitable activities to serve the common good. Individuals, families or corporations create them with endowments (donated money). The make grants with the income they earn from investing the endowments and are exempt from federal income tax. Ask the librarian of the main library (not a branch) to show you where to find lists of private foundations.

Landlords
The Fair Housing Act of 1988 Section 6(a) makes it illegal for landlords to refuse to let tenants make reasonable modifications as to a house or apartment if the tenant is willing to pay for the changes. The tenant must also restore the apartment or house when they leave, if the landlord wants it restored. Often times the added accessibility features makes the unit marketable to more populations and a landlord may be willing to split the costs. New construction of dwellings of four or more units must include wheelchair accessibility through entry ways and bathrooms, reinforced walls for grab bars in the bathroom, and accessible electrical outlets and thermostats.

Private Mortgage and Home Loans

  • Low interest Home Equity loans or lines of credit are available from most banks for amounts up to 80 per cent of the equity a person owns in their home.
  • Any accessibility features, such as a ramp or lift should be added to the price of a home when applying for a mortgage.
  • Federal Home Bank/Affordable Housing Programs are connected with the savings and loan industry. Check with a larger bank or savings and loan institution.

  • Disability Mortgages Loans
    http://www.mortgageloan.com/disabilities
    A comprehensive guide to housing and mortgages for people with disabilities.

Private Organizations
Certain private organizations will be able to assist with part of the money, so pursuing several sources may cover the bulk of your expenses, usually available for those who meet an organization's particular need-based criteria.

Write a proposal letter describing the type of modifications you need, why you need them, and the costs involved. (Obtain three bids for services in advance so you'll know how much you need.) Possible sources: The American Cancer Society, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the National United Cerebral Palsy Association. (Local branch offices will not have the resources the national offices do.)

Worker's Compensation and Private Insurance

  • Home modification can be included as part of a Workers Compensation claim and rehabilitation program.
  • Private insurance can include home modification as part of a rehabilitation program. Certain modifications, such as purification systems or air conditioners may be covered as a medical necessity, if prescribed by a doctor. Make sure to get a letter from your doctor describing your injury and what is needed. (Expect an automatic denial, and then keep appealing before being accepted. Remember to provide the specific information requested by your insurance company, such as obtaining several price quotes for an item.

1.4. HomeFreeHome

HomeFreeHome is a group of volunteer architects who design barrier-free home renovations that allow people to live with greater safety, dignity and freedom.  We connect people living with disabilities to local volunteer architects to create designs for small scale construction projects such as: ramps, accessible bathrooms and kitchens.
HomeFreeHome is an all-volunteer organization

1.5. Rebuilding Together

Rebuilding Together

This national nonprofit free of charge rehabilitates homes for low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and those with disabilities.

2. Accessible Home Design

2.1. Home Free Home

About Us

Starting in 2006 on Long Island, New York, HomeFreeHome is expanding to other states. Architects have already volunteered in many states including; Texas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida and are ready to start work.

Home Free Home is an all volunteer organization that relies on local volunteer architects and university students.  We are currently in the process of reaching out to volunteers across the country to grant resources to families in need.

To date we are fortunate to have volunteers working and or ready to carry out projects in the many states- see our membership map. 

2.2. Accessible Home Design Book

Interested in Ordering an Accessible Home Design Book? This book's ten chapters each address accessibility in specific building components.  Subject matter includes entering your home; residential elevators and lifts, kitchen design, bath and toilet room plans, plumbing fixtures, grab bars, doors, windows and outdoor rooms and garden paths.

2.3. Universal Design Living Laboratory

Rosemarie Rossetti, PhD is building a national model universal design home in Columbus, Ohio called the Universal Design Living Laboratory.

2.4. Myths About Universal Design

Ten Myths about Universal Design

Action Magazine
November 4, 2010
By Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2010 Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
Publication copyright © 2010 United Spinal Association
http://www.unitedspinal.org/
 
 

As I speak around the country about universal design housing, members of my audience composed of interior designers, architects, builders and consumers ask many questions. It has occurred to me over the past several years that there are many misconceptions about universal design. Let me share a few of the top myths and explain reality from my perspective.

Myth: A home using universal design looks ugly, institutional and stereotypes the home so people know it was designed for a person with a disability.

Reality: Professionally designed homes with universal design features and products enhance the beauty of a home while making it functional for people with disabilities, as well as convenient for people without disabilities. Universal design is for everyone, not just people with disabilities. There are many beautiful noninstitutional looking universal design products, such as grab bars, in the marketplace. Much of a home's beauty comes from the finishes of the plumbing fixtures, appliances, hardware, cabinets, countertops, wall treatment, and flooring. Universal design products are available in these beautiful finishes.

Myth: Universal design costs more due to the building design and products with universal design features, such as windows, appliances and plumbing fixtures.

Reality: My experience building my own home, the Universal Design Living Laboratory (www.udll. com), national demonstration home in Columbus, Ohio, has shown that there are many choices when it comes to selecting products for the home. Those with universal design features are not more expensive as a general rule. In fact by adding design features and products that support universal design, the home will have more value to the occupants because it will be more usable for a lifetime.

Myth: Universal design takes more square footage.

Reality: Space planning is critical in home design especially when the homeowner uses a wheelchair. As a person who uses a wheelchair, I am very cognizant of where extra space is needed and how to be conservative with space planning when creating a floor plan. By creating an open plan with fewer hallways, square footage can be conserved. By putting adequate space in the kitchen and bathrooms, there will be a lot more accessibility, comfort, and convenience. A universal design home need not have additional square footage, but rather have adequate room for a person to navigate the home from a wheelchair.

Myth: The resale value of the home will be less due to limiting the number of buyers who would be interested in these universal design features.

Reality: Universal design is for people of all ages and abilities. As the US population gets older, especially the baby boomers, they will be remaining in their homes longer. Many are opting to renovate their homes, and others are choosing additions to help them to age in place. Some are purchasing new homes of a smaller size than their last home. They are looking for all the features and comforts to be able to maintain their independence and stay in their homes for the rest of their lifetimes. Universal design features provide for safety and add value to a home.

Myth: The Americans with Disabilities Act has so many regulations that are very complicated to follow when designing homes with universal design features.

Reality: The ADA does not apply to single family housing unless federal funding was utilized. Private homeowners do not have ADA laws to follow.

Myth: The builder and their subcontractors are used to doing it their way and will not follow my design properly to include universal design features. It's too hard to change their building process.


Reality: Builders are becoming certified through the National Association of Home Builders in the Certified Aging in Place Specialist program and are learning how to utilize universal design principles. Builders are insisting that their subcontractors read the plans and follow the procedures for building new homes. As products are ordered by the builder, the universal design features are already a part of the design. As builders construct more homes with universal design features, universal design will become the new standard in the building industry.

Myth: A home containing universal design features will be harder to pass a building code inspection.

Reality: By the very nature and definition of universal design, there are no practices that go against federal and state building codes. There are also provisions for local variances should a question arise in the plan review stage.

Myth: Universal design homes have ramps at the front door causing the home to be labeled as a home for a person with a disability.


Reality: In order to create a no step entrance, there are some instances where a ramp at the front door is the only solution. However, by modifying the grade around the home, there are many properties that can be designed with a no step entrance. If ramping is needed elsewhere, such as in the garage, side door, or rear door, the ramp is not visible from the street.

Myth: Universal design is restricted to building a ranch style home.

Reality: First floor living is the goal for universal design, however, multilevel homes can also be constructed with provisions for access to the upper and lower floors by way of elevators, platform lifts and stair lifts.

Myth: Only a small number of people with disabilities and the elderly will benefit from universal design.

Reality: Universal design is human-centered design. The inclusive design of spaces and products will benefit people of all ages, with or without physical or mental limitations. No one can predict when a short term or long term disability will be a part of our lives. It is far better to plan for homes to accommodate us as we age rather than to be forced out of our homes when circumstances change.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is building a national model universal design home in metropolitan Columbus, Ohio. To learn more about the Universal Design Living Laboratory go to: www.UDLL.com

Contact Rosemarie with your ideas for future articles, questions, and accessible home problems she can solve at: rrossetti@unitedspinal.org.

2.5. Design Linc's Design Tips

Since 1995 Design Linc has provided on-line resources and information specifically geared toward people with disabilities and special design needs, as well as those involved in their care. Check out thier design tips!

2.6. Guidebook to the Accessible Home

Interested in planning and construction guidance for modifying existing homes including Home Entry, Interior Access, Bathrooms and Kitchens? This guidebook also provides information about how to include a range of accessibility features into new homes.

2.7. New Remodel Achieves New Independence

New Remodel...New Independence , an article in the Northwest Regional SCI System SCI Update , Spring 2012, V. 21: No. 2

Larry Mohrman, a C5, SCI incomplete shares his story of finding a house to remodel as well as his many before and after pictures, once the work was completed.  He worked with a contractor who had done previous ADA compliant work.  His contractor said, "My goal was to make it accessible, convenient, safe and fully useable—on a budget!"

2.8. Kitchen Modifications

Learn the Kitchen Accessibility Basics.  Learn ways to modify your kitchen.

Interested in rebuilding your kitchen? Learn about accessible kitchen layouts, contractors and more!

2.9. Bathroom Modification

Learn numerous ways to modify your bathroom.

Wyng-T products for space saving bath remodeling, a NSCIA Business Member

2.10. Grab Bars

Learn more about Grab Bars.

2.11. Want to Install an Elevator?

Read What's Up with Elevators? 

Read The Up's and Downs of Elevators  

2.12. Guide to Selecting A Wheelchair Ramp

Read about how to build a wheelchair ramp

2.13. Accessible Home Wheelchair Ramp Manual

How to Build Wheelchair Ramps for Homes is a manual of design and construction for modular wheelchair ramps. This manual includes information about modular ramps and long-tread low-riser steps to improve safe home accessibility.

2.14. American Ramp Systems

American Ramp Systems is a national provider of quality wheelchair ramps and portable roll-in wheelchair showers.

2.15. Guide to Selecting A Wheelchair Lift

 Read about the different types of Wheelchair Lifts including advantages and disadvantages.

3. Housing Modification Resources

3.1. Organizations Offering Housing Modification Information

Housing Modification Resources:

Spinal Cord Injury Information Network

Home Modifications

An Association of Members of the Accessibility Industry
AEMA is an association of persons and entities with an interest in the Private Residence Elevator and Accessibility Equipment. industry.
Accessible Designs - Adjustable Systems, Inc.
AD-AS
94 N. Columbus Road, Athens, OH 45701
740.593.5240
Email: adas@ad-as.com
Produces furnishing and accessories for universal design - ergonomic office furniture, accessible kitchen appliances (height adjustable), and healthcare furniture.
Accessible Home Design: Architectural Solutions for the Wheelchair User
Available for purchase by mail from the Paralyzed Veterans of America distribution center, $28 plus S&H. For details, follow this link and scroll down the page.
Accessible Solutions: A Division of Wood Wise Construction
A family business specializing in senior living and accessible home modifications for those who are physically challenged for almost 20 years. We have two locations - one in Mass and one in Maine, so our coverage area includes from Worcester County, MA, to the North Shore and Boston, MA; as well as Southern Maine to Cumberland County, Maine. Renovations include wheelchair ramps, widened doorways, specialized grab bars, accessible bathrooms with roll-in showers or walk in tubs, as well as accessible kitchens. Showroom now open in Kittery, Maine.
Adaptations & Modifications after Spinal Cord Injury
A streaming video from the Northwest Regional Spinal Cord Injury System SCI Forum Presentations about home adaptations and modifications after SCI (June 2007).
Around the House: Paying for Modifications
An article from PN Paraplegia News magazine (November, 2001) from Opening Doors, a housing publication of the Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. that provides information to determine if you qualify for funding to make accessibility modifications to your home?
Best Bath
A complete line of Luxurious bathing units for people of all abilities.
4545 Enterprise
Boise, Idaho 83705
800-727-9907
Beyond Barriers
Available from: Blair Ferguson
800-561-2223
  • A catalog that lists hundreds of accessibility products. Features seven product categories: bathroom, kitchen, universal home, outdoor, leisure and fitness, pediatrics, and daily living aids.
  • 127 pages
Center For Universal Design
Rehabilitation Enginering Research Center

North Carolina State University
PO Box 8613, Raleigh NC 27695-8613
800-647-6777 or 919-515-3082
Email: CUD@NCSU.EDU
A National research, information, and technical assistance center that evaluates, develops, and promotes accessible and universal design in housing, building, and related products. They also develop publications and instructional materials, provide information and referrals and technical assistance to consumers and professionals. They collaborate with builders and manufacturers on the development of new design solutions.
Clarion Bathware
205 Amsler Ave, Shippenville, PA 16254
814-226-5568
Clarion produces a wide range of products and barrier-free bathware for the home that is designed for individuals who require assisted care.
Concrete Change
This web site provides information on how to make all homes "visitable". It offers ideas for constructing homes without barriers in ways that are inexpensive and easy. It includes construction guidelines, costs and resources.
Dynamic Living
888-940-0605
This company offers hundreds of kitchen products, bathroom helpers and unique daily living aids to make your home safe, accessible and functional.
Still don't see what you've been searching for? Let us help.
E-mail product-finder@dynamic-living.com
Hometime© Accessibility
Information from the home remodeling show, Hometime © , includes building and remodeling for accessibility, building ramps, remoding bathrooms and kitchens for accessibility , building a new additional resources and manufacturers.
Inclinator Company of America
2200 Paxton St, PO Box 1557
Harrisburg, PA 17105-1557
717-234-8065 FAX: 717-234-0941
Email: isales@inclinator.com The pioneer of residential elevators and stairlifts.
Major Kitchen Modification
Tips for designing and customizing your kitchen for accessibility. Includes lists of contractors, builders, and home products.
National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
Operated by: Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center
University of Southern California
3715 McClintock Ave.,Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191
213-740-1364, 213-740-7069 FAX, or Email:homemods@usc.edu
This organization provides resources and information on home modification, including converting or adapting the environment to make tasks easier, reduce accidents, and support independent living. They also conduct research and training.
Quartet Technology, Inc
1934 Lakeview Ave.
Dracut, MA 01826
Phone: (978) 957-4328
Fax: (978) 957-8366
Email: info@qtiusa.com
Quartet Technology, Inc has 20 years of experience in the development and sale of environmental control units (ECU's). The company is guided by the personal vision that inspired and continues to inspire its founder: that of restoring self-esteem and dignity to people with disabilities.
SCI Video Access - a lending program of information videos
Spinal Cord Injury Network
3911 Princeton Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
1-800-548-2673 or 707-577-8796, Fax - 707-577-0605
  • SCI Video Access is a program that loans informational videotapes related to spinal cord injury to individuals with SCI and their families. Videotapes are available on these, and many more, topics: attendant care, wheelchair maintenance, bowel management, autonomic dysreflexia, catherization, FES, syringomyelia, spinal cord injury, neurogenic bladder, wheelchair basketball, skiing, parenting, wheelchair tennis, home modification, exercise tapes, pressure sore prevention. Individuals must first register with SCI Network. Tapes are sent through the mail and must be returned within 10 days (postage is prepaid). Funded by grant from the P V A, Education and Training Foundation.
Tips for Building Modular Ramps and Steps
By: Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL)
1600 University Ave., St. Paul, MN 55104-3825
651-603-2029 or Email MCIL2@aol.com
Date: 1999
  • This new video illustrates the design and construction techniques that are in the "How to Build Wheelchair Ramps for Homes" manual. Great for project leaders and construction volunteers.
  • Cost: $20
Wheelchair Ramps
All aluminum ramps with no galvanized legs or handrails. Easy to set up and store when not in use.

Visitability
By:Mike Ervin
A story from New Mobility magazine (August, 1997) that presents the changes that the Group, Concrete Changes, organized by Eleanor Smith has made in Atlanta to make new homes "visitable". Minor construction changes can make a home have "visitability" - allowing acces for everyone who uses a chair to visit and probably live there.

 

3.2. Home Modifications Tip Sheet

In partnership with benefit experts, consumers, and the like, the New Hampshire State Independent Living Council created several tip sheets.  The tip sheets are designed to provide a basic overview of the topic and additional ways or links to get more in-depth information.

4. Companies that do Home Modifications

4.1. New York

ThyssenKrupp Accessibility

Phone: U.S. Customer
Service Center:

1-800-829-9760

Company Profile:

ThyssenKrupp Accessibility is a company of ThyssenKrupp Elevator. ThyssenKrupp Elevator is the third largest elevator company in the world. With sales of approx. 3.5 billion and over 30,000 employees at more than 800 locations, the group is active around the globe.

The strengths of ThyssenKrupp Elevator lie in decades of expertise, strong service competencies, flexibility and innovative prowess.We translate these strengths in the development of stair lifts. With over 40 years of experience we are the world's largest manufacturer of products that help people overcome stair climbing difficulties.

5. Other Resources

5.1. NYS Access to Home Program

About the Access to Home Program

Access to Home Program will provide financial assistance to property owners to make dwelling units accessible for low- and moderate income persons with disabilities. Providing assistance with the cost of adapting homes to meet the needs of those with disabilities will enable individuals to safely and comfortably continue to live in their residences and avoid institutional care.

Grants will be made to municipalities and eligible not-for-profit entities and that have substantial experience in adapting or retrofitting homes for persons with disabilities. Adaptation work must meet the needs of those with physical disabilities and seniors with an age-related disability. Examples include: wheel chair ramps and lifts, handrails, easy-to-reach kitchen work and storage areas, lever handles on doors, roll-in showers with grab bars, etc.

Homeowners and renters may qualify for loan assistance through the municipality or not-for-profit entity under the following criteria: the occupant is physically disabled or has substantial difficulty with an activity of daily living because of aging; the dwelling unit is a permanent residence; and, total household income does not exceed 80 percent of area median income, or 120% of area median income if a veteran.

The program is to provide funding of up to $4 million in 2008. Loans to homeowners will be up to 100% of the total cost of the adaptations to a maximum of $25,000. Loans will be at 0% interest with payments deferred on the condition the customer resides in the modified residence. The entire loan will be forgiven at the end of a regulatory period of up to five years.

See attached file to locate your counties office for more information.