“We need to make our home handicapped accessible. Can you help us find information? We were also wondering, is there is a way to use an automatic garage door opener to open a man-door?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff found it interesting to research these questions, as this is a situation faced by many families as loved ones become older or lose mobility.
The book, Opening the Doors to Older Persons: an ADA accessibility checklist was created for primarily for public buildings, but the information and checklists included give homeowners some important things to consider. Access For All by Schooley Caldwell Associates and the Ohio Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities has a chapter on housing with instructions on how to increase accessibility in the modification of a single family home. A very practical book in the library’s collection is Ideas for Making Your Home Accessible. It takes you step-by-step through the process, looking at costs and needs, as well as giving simple suggestions such as using vertical file storage to provide easy access to frequently used items (p. 58). We also recommend borrowing The Accessible Home: updating your home for changing physical needs through TiPL, Trumbull Independent Public Libraries’ shared catalog.
Not finding anything on adapting a garage door opener for use as an automatic handicapped door, our staff did an Internet search. In Life on Wheels: for the active wheelchair user by Gary Karp [http://oreilly.com/medical/wheels/news/home_planning.html], the author writes about how a contractor mounted the opener sideways on patio doors to make them automatic. The Automatic Sliding Door Opener by designers Michael Meilunas, Mark Seus, and Colum Gibbons (Binghamton University, Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science Department of Mechanical Engineering) in the NSF 1997 Engineering Senior Design Projects to Aid Persons with Disabilities, (p. 44-45) [http://nsf-pad.bme.uconn.edu/1997/1997%20Chapter%204.pdf] also shows a sliding door opener using one originally intended for a garage. NaturalHandyMan.com has Free Home-Made Automatic Gate Opener Plans by Keith G. Vickers which looks as if it could be adapted to open a man-door.
Adapting a home can be expensive. Groups considering helping families with emergency home repair/handicapped accessibility may wish to examine the site for The Ohio Housing Trust Fund’s Housing Assistance Grant Program [www.odod.state.oh.us/cdd/ohcp/hssp.htm]. Handi-Ramp [www.handiramp.com/Funding.htm] has a network of programs that can be looked at to see if any will match the homeowner’s needs.