When you have a physical disability, you often have to make changes to your home, vehicle, and workspace to ensure you can move through your day in a safe and comfortable way. Likewise, there are many actions you can take to make your living space more secure against unwanted visitors and intruders — and better still, several of them are DIY projects for people of all abilities.
Of course, we recommend that every dwelling, whether a house in the suburbs or an apartment in the city, has a home security system. No matter if you hire a specialist to install your equipment or choose a DIY home security system, you’ll be alerted of danger and be able to contact emergency authorities immediately. In addition, consider taking these security measures to help you stay safe in your home as someone with a physical disability.
Put Security Devices Within Reach
Depending on the nature of your disability, it may be hard for you to reach certain heights, whether because you have difficulty reaching areas that are too high or too low. It’s important to arrange security equipment you need to access at a height you can comfortably reach, including:
- Your home security system’s control panel
- Deadbolts and chain locks on doors
- Garage door openers
- Panic buttons
- Landline phones
- Drawstrings and cords attached to window coverings
If you use a wheelchair, lower these home security elements so they’re always within easy reach. If you opt for an extender handle, be sure to carry it with you throughout your home, or better yet, keep one next to each one of these devices. Likewise, if you have trouble lowering yourself because you use a walker or cane, adjust these items, or keep an extender handle nearby at all times. For every item requiring electrical work to adjust it, be sure to work with a professional for safety’s sake.
Keep Everything Visible
Even if you don’t have vision problems, making sure you can clearly see the inside and outside of your home is a practical way to help ensure your safety. You can accomplish this by adding one or more of the following elements:
- A peephole to your front door
- Motion-sensored lights to your front- and backyard
- Lighting to outdoor pathways in your yard and leading to your home
- Drawstrings to curtains, shades, and blinds
- Ample lighting throughout the home, taking care not to impede your ease of movement with floor lamps that block hallways, entrances, and other narrow spaces
Additionally, be sure to remove shrubs, trees, and any other plants that make it difficult for you to see out into your yard. Bulky plants can also create places for unwelcome guests to hide, so try to make sure that you have a clear view of the area that surrounds any large sprouts in your yard.
Smart security features — those you can control from your smartphone or tablet — ensure you’re able to reach just about every security measure you have in place no matter where you are in the house (or even if you’re away from home). Look for devices you can connect to from your phone (especially those that are video enabled) to help you stay in the know about both welcome and unwelcome visitors. Plus, they minimize the need to move from one part of the home to another to address security concerns, a major perk for those with limited mobility. Smart features that may be helpful include:
- Video doorbells
- Automatic door locks
- Automated window locks
- Outdoor lights that can be controlled remotely
- Outdoor video camera monitors
Upgrade Your Locks
For both comfort and safety, be sure you prioritize the durability and functionality of the locks on your doors. If smart security features are outside your budget, you can install other versions that will still accommodate your disability and amp up your home’s safety. For example, if you have trouble with grip, you can replace your traditional locks with keyless entries that use a digital keypad to open and secure the deadbolt. For added comfort, you can also look for a keypad with a lever-style handle rather than a round knob.
No matter what, be sure you have a deadbolt on each exterior door. If you haven’t changed your locks since moving into a home you purchased, be sure to do so right away, making sure all primary and secondary locks are within easy reach.
Use Panic Devices
If you have a medical alert device, you already know the value in having a direct way to call for help in an emergency. Portable panic buttons can provide the same peace of mind. You can wear them, place them in different parts of your home, attach them to your service dog’s collar, or use a combination of strategies to provide yourself a direct line to local police during an emergency. Look for phone apps, wearable devices, or keychain models. If you own a medical alert device, verify your service provider’s response protocol should you contact them during a break-in or another home security emergency.
Open Your Layout Along Your Escape Route
In case there is an emergency where you have to evacuate your home, it’s important you have an easy and accessible way to leave your property, or at the very least, a room you can retreat to that will protect you until help arrives. Create an escape route you can use in the event of a break-in, and make sure the pathways leading there are clear of wheelchair barriers and tripping hazards.
Work with Your Service Dog
If you have a service dog, you have a safety ally in a few different ways. For one, dogs are great for home security — their loud barking alone tends to scare away would-be intruders. Plus, service animals are trained to keep an eye out for anything that’s amiss in your home or your daily routine, so if they sense danger, they will very likely alert you so you can swiftly take action. Lastly, by adding a few simple home modifications (like pull cords that open blinds or deadbolt the door), they can help you reach some of your home’s security features.
Your service dog is probably your best friend and provides you with endless affection, but his primary focus is to support your health and safety. If you haven’t already incorporated him into your home security planning, think about ways he may be more of an asset — being trained to bark at the sound of breaking glass or hitting a portable panic button when the security alarm is activated, for example — and work with him and/or a trainer accordingly.
Living with physical differences shouldn’t infringe on your ability to feel safe and secure in your home. Many of the measures you should take to increase your home’s protective powers are standard home security measures with a few twists to accommodate physical disabilities. It’s a smart investment to hire a home security specialist to perform an audit of your living space and explain how to increase its safety and security features, but there are also several DIY steps you can take that won’t break the bank. Whether you work with a team of pros or make updates on your own, you’ll feel more confident about your family’s welfare by spending some time adding a few extra home security features.