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Universal Design: A Means to Live Independently
Most Oklahomans want to remain living independently in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Either because of a long term disability or a sudden change in health and physical ability, a home frequently needs modification to be safe, comfortable and functional for their needs. A recent American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) survey found that seven in ten of those who are able to make changes to their homes have made at least one modification to make it possible for them to get around easier and more safely in their home. These modifications will allow them to live in their homes longer than they would have been able otherwise.
These modifications may be as simple as placing non-skid strips in bathtubs or safety bars and handrails on both sides of the stairwells or long hallways. The reasons most people in the survey quoted for not making home improvements were the inability to make the changes themselves and not being able to afford the modifications.
A Reverse Mortgage (see pg.104) can turn the equity in a home to cash without having to repay a loan each month. Needed home repairs or improvements are one of the many good uses for funds received from a Reverse Mortgage. If a Reverse Mortgage is not the answer, other home equity loans may be available for this important need. Lending institutions such as banks, credit unions and mortgage companies are resources to contact. Able Tech (See pg. 88) offers some very low interest loans for people with disabilities.
Rural Housing Programs have some loans and grants for very low income individuals and families who own homes in need of repair or accessibility modifications in some counties of Oklahoma. Homeowners age 62 and over are eligible to apply for home improvement grants. Other low income families and individuals receive loans at a one percent interest rate, with the option to pay a loan out over a 20-year period. For more information, contact Rural Housing Program, (405) 742-1070 (V) TTY or (405) 742-1084 FAX. (See pg. 77)
In some counties, the Community Action Agency may assist with home repair and weatherization. Some may help with ramp installation. HOME Rehab provides financial help for major home renovations for income eligible families. Check with your counties’ Community Action Office to see if they have a program that fits your needs and your situation. See pg. 71 for Community Action Agency contact numbers.
Some municipalities have some loans or grants available for home repairs or modifications. Check with your city office to determine if this is available in your area.
Rebuilding Together may be able to make repairs and modifications for those who meet their criteria. Affiliates are located in the Oklahoma City Metro area, Tulsa, Cleveland County and Enid. Each affiliate has their guidelines and scope of work they will do. If you are an individual over 60 years of age or a person with a disability, and are unable to financially and/or physically make repairs or modifications yourself, contact one of these Rebuilding Together offices to see if you qualify for the program:
Oklahoma City Metro area (405) 607-0464
Cleveland County (405) 420-2027
Tulsa (918) 742 6241
In certain instances the cost of modifications may be tax deductible. The following information is quoted directly from IRS Publication 502:
“It may include in medical expenses amounts you pay for special equipment installed in a home, or for improvements, if their main purpose is medical care for you, your spouse, or your dependent. The cost of permanent improvements that increase the value of your property may be partly included as a medical expense. The cost of the improvement is reduced by the increase in the value of your property. The difference is a medical expense. If the value of your property is not increased by the improvement, the entire cost is included as a medical expense.
Certain improvements made to accommodate a home to your disabled condition, or that of your spouse of your dependents who live with you, do not usually increase the value of the home and the cost can be included in full as medical expenses. These improvements include, but are not limited to, the following items:
Only reasonable costs to accommodate a home to a disabled condition are considered medical care. Additional costs for personal motives, such as for architectural or aesthetic reasons, are not medical expenses.
You can deduct only the amount of your medical and dental expenses that is more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (line 35, Form 1040).
Example. Your adjusted gross income is $20,000. 7.5 percent of which is $1,500. You paid medical expenses of $800. You cannot deduct any of your medical expenses because they are not more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.”
For more tax information, consult your tax advisor, call the IRS 1-800-829-1040 or visit the web site: http://www.irs.gov/ under publication 502.
The top ten home improvements reported in a recent AARP survey were:
While you appreciate the beauty and convenience of smooth step free entryways, covered porches and wide doors and hallways, homes that incorporate elements of Universal Design go much further to enhance comfort and convenience. Who wouldn’t enjoy sitting at a workstation in their kitchen designed to reduce fatigue and back strain while preparing food? Or imagine the greater convenience of a raised dishwasher, lowered cabinets, curb less showers, remote lighting controls, raised electrical outlets, lower positioned electrical switches and thermostats with large easy-to-read numbers. These features would not only enhance your enjoyment of a home, but because they appeal to everyone, they may enhance the home’s value.
Although a more comfortable home has obvious benefits, there is a more practical matter to consider–safety. You may not generally think of your home as a dangerous place, but the statistics prove otherwise. According to the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, more than one third of adults age 65 and older suffer injuries from a fall in their homes each year. Among older adults, falls are a leading cause of injury deaths and the most common cause of non fatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
Some seemingly harmless features you have lived with for decades, such as loose throw rugs, poor lighting, limited handrails, slippery surfaces in the kitchen and bathrooms, or awkward access to shower stalls and bathtubs may be a risk. Taking a fresh look at your living arrangements can help eliminate risks. You may be walking a winding path around end tables and hassocks, over extension cords and across multiple levels of carpet and flooring just to go from the television to the refrigerator. You may be straining to reach for items in your kitchen that are too high to reach or crawling around the bathroom floor to find supplies buried in the bottom of a closet. These are just a few home features or habits that increase your risk of falls and contribute to injuries, hospitalization, and forced moves from the home. (See the Home Safety Check List in Chapter 1)
There are resources available to help you evaluate your home, determine your needs, plan solutions and compare costs and options. You may utilize the services of an occupational therapist, physical therapist, interior designer, home remodeler, architect, independent living strategist or case manager.
There are individuals who can advise you on ways to incorporate customized home accessibility improvements based on your specific needs. These professionals offer personalized in-home consultations with you and your family and work with a contractor to modify your home to suite your changing needs.
Rebuilding Together allows you to download a checklist to identify fall hazards and accessibility issues. The solutions worksheet available on the web can assist in prioritization and implementation of specific home modifications.
Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access
Center for Universal Design, North Carolina State University
National Advisory council for Aging in Place
National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification: The site contains a Products section that lists product suppliers. There is a separate section titled “National Directory of Home Modification Resources” that you can use to locate a consultant or other helpful resource.
Oklahoma Independent Living Centers may be helpful in advising you of the resources in your area for home modification.
Sandra Beasley Independent Living Center
705 S. Oakwood Road, Suite B-1
Enid, OK 73703
(580) 237-8508 Voice/TTY/TDD
Toll Free: 1-800-375-4358 Voice/TTY/TDD
(580) 233-6403 Fax
Oklahomans for Independent Living
601 E Carl Albert
McAlester, OK 74501
(918) 426-6220 Voice/TTY/TDD
Toll Free: 1-800-568-6821 Voice/TTY/TDD
(918) 426-3245 Fax
121 N. Porter
Norman, OK 73071
(405) 321-3203 Voice/TTY/TDD
Toll Free: 1-800-801-3203 Voice/TTY/TDD(in state only)
Green Country Independent Living Resource Center
4100 SE Adams Road, Suite C-106
Bartlesville, OK 74006
(918) 918-335-1314 Voice/TTY/TDD
Toll Free: 1-800-559-0567 Voice/TTY/TDD
Oklahoma Area Wide Agencies on Aging are resources in providing information on making a home more accessible for senior citizens. Contact the Statewide Seniors Information Line for the Area Wide Agency on Aging nearest you at 1-800-211-2116.
Universal Design-based home modifications keep you in control of your life and your home. Some modifications are minor and some are major but even a simple modification may make your life easier, more comfortable and most of all safer.
The Office of Disability Concerns does not endorse any products or vendors listed on the above web sites.