Home Modification

Alteration of both temporary and permanent features in the indoor or immediate outdoor environment that potentially impede independent living for people with disabilities

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What is Home Modification?

Home modification refers to the alteration of both temporary and permanent features in the indoor or immediate outdoor environment that potentially impedes independent living for people with disabilities. It is a form of intervention meant to enable people living with disabling conditions to continue living in their homes and restore the home as a place that fosters personal and social relationships.

Home Modification

Through home modification, the elderly, especially those with disabilities or other health conditions, may become independent and safe. Conducting a home modification may eliminate the need for paid long-term residential care or care services.

Typical examples of home modifications include re-arranging furniture, installing rails and lifts, or installing emergency alarms.


  • Home modification is an environmental intervention aimed at enabling older people to be in the least restrictive environment and restore the social meaning of their home. 
  • The disability rights movement and the need for public accommodation for people with disabilities initiated the home modification intervention.  
  • There are various types of home modifications with different price ranges and project scope, including grab bars or rails, fitting lifts, fitting bath tabs, and installing wheelchair ramps. 

Understanding Home Modification

Home modifications take many forms, from minor reconstructions to major renovations made to enhance accessibility and usability of the home environment. It is considered one of the cares and management options for individuals with ongoing illnesses and disabilities.

Home modifications reduce physical barriers from the home environment and enable safe access to other areas of the house. Home modification is a statutory requirement in some states. All eligible applicants are given the mandatory provisions of disabling facilities grants (DFGs) by local governments.

Although the disability rights movement initiated the propulsion of home modifications, they are promoted because of their cost-effectiveness compared to other environmental interventions, such as paid home-based and long-term residential care.

The price for home modification is directly tied to the type of service rendered to a home. Sliding-scale fees and funding options may be available for large projects. These benefits are based on the home owner’s income and ability to pay.

History of Home Modification

The need for accessible homes for people with disabilities or illnesses that rendered them immobile began at the level of public accommodation. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990 defined the requirements for any public structure constructed after 1991.

ADA came into use in parallel with the Fair Housing and Amendments Act (FHAA) of 1988. Both legislations require that all new modifications and constructions involving public accommodations be accessible to people with functional disabilities.

Home modification requirements are currently mandated by the local municipal housing codes and federal guidelines. Private residences are not subject to the ADA since most of the provisions do not suit the individuals living there. It means that home modifications should be tailored to their unique needs.

However, even with the implementation of these laws, many homes seem to embody risks for injury to older adults. The most common challenges involve moving through walls and doorways, use of the bathroom and kitchen, and entry into the house.

Home Modifications and Independent Living

Home modifications are commonly completed exclusively for the elderly whose mobility became impaired after becoming disabled in any capacity. Many homes may not be equipped to safely accommodate aging seniors, who want to continue living in their homes independently.

Their environment may also pose significant safety risks for people with mobility impairments, hence the need for personalized home modifications to ensure that older adults go about their daily routines without being assisted.

Many homes in which the elderly live are single-family homes that were built without considering the disabled or the aging population. The requirements for proper physical accessibility in building, especially in single-family homes, shows why conductive and supportive environments are important for these population groups.

The structural features that potentially pose problems discourage individuals from staying in their homes as they get older, sometimes forcing them to relocate to retirement homes. Living at home means hiring long-term care services, which is an expensive undertaking for most families.

Examples of Home Modification Programs

In the U.S., the Department of Health and Human Services offers a range of home modifications through the State-wide Equipment Program (SWEP). The program was created to support people with functional limitations to enhance their safety and independence.

Within the abovementioned prescription category, eligible persons are supplied with safety slip-resistant floors, entry widening, bathroom rails, bidets, ramps, platform steps, etc. Before applying for home modification, consumers and their representatives must state how they will use the modified environment.

Many countries, including the U.S., explore such programs to reduce institutional care and encourage older people to continue living in their homes when disability or mobility impairments occur.

More Resources

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