Living space for people in wheelchairs

Living space for people in wheelchairs

According to the Federal Statistical Office, there are around 7.55 million severely disabled people in Germany. There is no exact statistic on the number of wheelchair users, as the Federal Statistical Office only records the type of disability. Nevertheless, it can be estimated from the physical disability, how many people need a wheelchair: About 1.05 million.

A significant part of the population needs a wheelchair to be able to move inside and outside the apartment. Wheelchair users know how difficult it is for them to master even simple things in everyday life independently: from using the WC to reaching high shelves and climbing stairs. Tasks that were never a problem at any time in their lives seem insurmountable. For these people, it is very important to create a living environment that makes everyday life easier for them.

The (difficult) life of a wheelchair user

High curbs, difficult access to buildings - the life of a wheelchair user consists of a multitude of obstacles. At least at home, he does not want to fight with his apartment, but pursue his daily routine undisturbed. This is not possible in many German apartments. They were not designed with the idea of ​​accessibility. The result: Narrow doors, steep stairs, little turning room for wheelchair users.

A wheelchair user reported on the problems of finding a flat in Aktion Mensch's blog. Finding a suitable apartment is not easy. Owners of a property have the advantage that they can remodel their home and make it accessible. It would be better, of course, if the concept of accessibility in the construction of the apartment is taken into account. Then conversions would no longer be necessary.

The concept of accessibility

Is my house barrier-free? - a question many Germans have to deny. Most citizens do not worry about accessibility until they are affected. A big problem, because consumers benefit not only in their old age but also at a young age when they are forced to use a wheelchair, for example because of an accident.

Accessibility is a concept that is actually used in building everyone Property should be noted. It is associated with higher investment, which eliminates the problem of a later renovation and thus further, usually higher costs. As already mentioned, barrier-free building is unfortunately not yet standard. In view of the demographic development in Germany, it can be foreseen that accessibility can no longer be ignored.

What exactly is accessibility? Essentially, it is a term used to refer to a set of guidelines designed to ensure that an offer is assimilated to all audiences so that no group has any advantage or disadvantage. For living spaces, accessibility refers to the design of living space according to specific guidelines, which ensure that disabled people - in this case wheelchair users - can use their apartment without restriction.

Barrier-free measures in the living area include:

  • wide doors
  • floor-level showers
  • low-hanging furniture

A stairlift for insurmountable height differences

The greatest challenge for wheelchair users is overcoming height differences. Apartments on several floors have stairs. They lack a lift that can be retrofitted in any case.

Lifts come in various shapes and finishes. Popular and practical is the so-called platform lift, which is available both for indoor and outdoor. The platform lift has a loading area that the wheelchair user can drive on. A carrying or guide rail, which is attached to the wall of the house, conveys the lift up or down.

When buying a lift, make sure that its maximum maximum weight is that of the wheelchair user. The lift must also be suitable for the stairs. Stairs can be steep, winding or straight. The correct selection of the stairlift guarantees a maximum degree of safety and comfort.

Depending on the version, the costs for a platform lift amount to several thousand euros. Grants (up to 4,000 euros) are provided by the long-term care insurance if the wheelchair user is in a nursing position.

Due to the high investment requirements for a lift, we recommend that affected persons obtain information on all possible financing and grant options. Low-interest loans from KfW as well as subsidies from states and municipalities should be considered if the wheelchair user does not have a care level. Each small measure reduces the investment, increases the comfort of the wheelchair user and contributes significantly to his independence.

5 Features that a wheelchair user must own

Wheelchair users have a special need for their home furnishings.

  1. First of all There is nothing in the apartment that impedes driving in a wheelchair: carpets, steps or heels. Each threshold must be level to ensure trouble-free driving around.
  2. Furthermore, the apartment must be planned or set up so that the turning circle of a wheelchair is observed. Wheelchair users need to be able to turn around in their home on the spot - even in the shower - without having problems.
  3. Due to the low seat height in a wheelchair, the apartment should be equipped so that no furniture is placed out of reach. On high hanging furniture is largely to renounce. Instead, intelligent systems are needed that are located at the bottom.
  4. Just as problematic as hanging furniture are windows that can not be easily opened or closed by wheelchair users. There is a simple solution to this problem: Remote control windows. Some manufacturers combine the usability of their windows with an automatic ventilation system, which ensures a good indoor climate. Thanks to the rain sensor, the windows close automatically.
  5. The biggest challenge when furnishing the apartment is in the bathroom. Here should be a height-adjustable, wheelchair-accessible vanity, numerous handles and a floor-level shower to be found. Base cabinets provide storage space, but must not interfere with the wheelchair user.

Tips and information on planning a wheelchair-friendly apartment can be found on a project page of the Environmental Center for Energy and Sustainability of the Handwerkskammer Trier.


For wheelchair users Living in a conventional apartment alone is not possible. The conversion of the apartment allows them to find their way independently in everyday life. Anyone who considers the issue of barrier-free housing construction will save on later (expensive) conversion measures.

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