When you face challenges with mobility, the accessibility of the environment can be a major factor in determining your ability to be active and engaged. In order to remain as mobile as possible, your home, workplace, neighborhood, transportation options and recreational activities all need to be suited to your needs. The benefits of making adaptions can include energy conservation, reducing the risk of falls and increased independence.
Adapted vehicles and modifications
When symptoms of MS interfere with driving safely, an occupational therapist or certified ADED driving rehabilitation specialist can assess your needs and recommend adaptations and tools, and vehicle or van modifications to help keep you driving as long as possible. Your consultation will result in a prescription for the precise equipment you need and may result in driving lessons with the new equipment. Find an occupational therapist that evaluates driving.
While used wheelchair vans, SUVs, trucks and cars are ideal options for some, a custom-built mobility vehicle can offer more comprehensive or personalized conversion options. Consult with a mobility equipment dealer, such as those who are members of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), to determine which option is best for you.
Some questions to consider in exploring your adaptive vehicle options:
- Will an assessment be provided?
- Is my current vehicle adaptable?
- How much will this cost?
- What financing options are available?
- Will any training be provided in the purchase of an adapted vehicle?
- Will any maintenance or support be needed and/or provided for an adapted vehicle?
Home modifications and home repair
Even fairly simple changes to your home, such as grab bars or other bathroom modifications, widened doorways, ramps and better lighting, can help you conserve energy, be more efficient in your daily tasks, and avoid dangerous falls.
Checking for credentials is one of the most important actions in selecting a construction or remodeling company for barrier-free access work.
Here are a few questions you should ask when selecting a contractor:
- Is the company a member of Accessible Home Improvement of America (AHIA)?
- Is the company certified aging-in-place (CAPS) certified?
- Does the company carry liability insurance?
- Can the company provide references?
- How long has the company been in business?
- Does the contractor have any Better Business Bureau complaints?
- Does the contractor have an occupational therapist who can assist with the overall independent living strategy?
Accessible, affordable housing and knowing your rights as a renter may all become concerns for people with MS as the disease imposes mobility and other challenges. The financial impact of MS may make it difficult to keep up with mortgage or rent payments or cover the cost of significant home modifications such as installing a ramp or building an accessible bathroom. Or, you may be concerned about housing discrimination because of your disability. The resources found on our housing page are available to help you navigate the complexities of accessible, affordable housing.
Ramps and stair lifts
Ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational or physical therapist (OT or PT) and for the names of reputable local vendors.
- Shop at a medical equipment provider.
- Ask if the vendor participates in Medicare or Medicaid if you are a beneficiary.
- Look for vendors with staff who are certified complex rehab technology suppliers (CRTS) or assistive technology professionals credentialed by RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America
Building or Selecting a Ramp
It is a good idea to have non-skid surfaces. For outdoor wheelchair ramps, it should also be constructed so water cannot accumulate on walking surfaces. Handrail position and height should also be taken into consideration. For access ramps that lead to doors (i.e., in an entryway), the way that the door swings may also need to be altered.
Choosing a Stair Lift
If your stairs are a single flight of straight stairs, you can use a straight stair lift. Any other configuration requires a curved stair lift. Consider a swivel chair feature on a straight stair lift. Choose a stair lift with the appropriate weight capacity.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to both public and private ground transportation providers. ADA complementary paratransit service provides origin-to-destination service and must be available where fixed-route service exists.
ADA Paratransit Service Minimum Requirements:
- Service area: Generally, within a three-quarter mile on either side of a fixed route.
- Hours and days of service: Same hours and days as fixed route. Verify the schedule.
- Fare: Fares may not exceed twice the fare that would be charged to an individual paying full fare for a fixed-route trip of similar length, at a similar time of day. A personal care attendant shall not be charged. Ask, what are the fees?
- Response time: Paratransit service must be provided at any requested time on a particular day in response to a request for service made the previous day. Real time scheduling, in which a call to the transit provider would result in pickup the same day, is allowed but not mandated.
- Trip purpose restrictions: No restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose are allowed.
Find Mobility & Accessibility Resources
Now that you’ve reviewed the guide, we encourage you to conduct a search for resources in your area by using the Find Doctors & Resources tool. Select the “Mobility & Accessibility” category and then the support subtype depending upon your need.
Other helpful Find Doctors & Resource categories
Additional resources for mobility and accessibility needs may be found in the Find Doctors & Resources category of Independent Living. This category provides resources to government agencies and nonprofit organizations offering independent living skills training, personal advocacy, information and referral and access to service dogs.