Persons with disabilities and those experiencing the effects of aging may require various types of home modification to remain at home independently. Home modifications can include the installation of ramps, the removal of architectural barriers to bathrooms and kitchens, and the addition of environmental controls. Although many simple home modifications can be done at low cost, more complex home modifications require getting recommendations from a physical or occupational therapist, an architect, the involvement of a contractor, and financial assistance.
Common Types of Home Modification
- Individuals who use wheelchairs or scooters typically face issues regarding steps leading into their homes. This generally requires the installation of a ramp. Concrete ramps provide the most durability but are also more expensive. Wooden ramps are cheaper and can be built more quickly, but require additional maintenance. Portable aluminum ramps can be used for individuals who are using a wheelchair or scooter on a temporary basis.
- Another common issue is the need to widen doorways to accommodate the width of wheelchairs and scooters. The installation of offset hinges may be adequate in some instances, but in other cases doorways will need to be reconstructed. Additionally, round doorknobs should be replaced with levers where necessary.
- In houses with more than one story, many individuals may need assistance in moving between floors. This may require the use of a stair glide or the installation of a residential elevator. Where this is not an option, individuals may want to reconfigure rooms on lower floors as bedrooms or bathrooms.
- Bathrooms are typically the most difficult and expensive element in most homes to modify to accommodate a person with a disability. Many individuals require the use of grab bars to transfer on and off of toilet seats and in and out of bathtubs. Toilet seats and sinks may need to be lowered. Roll-in showers may be an option for some individuals with mobility disabilities.
- Designing kitchens to be accessible for people with disabilities may require lowering counters, placing appliances within the reach range, and utilizing lower shelves and cabinets for the most commonly-used kitchen utensils.
- Environmental controls can operate common household systems such as thermostats, lighting, and security alarms, as well as televisions, stereos and kitchen appliances. Additionally, motion control sensors can be used to turn lights on when someone enters a room and turn them off when someone leaves a room.
- Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing typically require the addition of visible elements in systems such as doorbells, telephones, and home alarm systems.
- Individuals with visual disabilities may require the repositioning of low-hanging lighting fixtures and ceiling fans. Tactile warnings can assist people who use canes to alert them to changes in levels or other potentially dangerous features.
Home modifications are a significant expense, particularly for individuals with disabilities who have low incomes. Funding options include a variety of programs that help pay for all or part of the cost of home modifications.
Under the terms of the Assistive Technology Act of 2004, ATAC and DRNJ do NOT provide funding for home modification.
BANK OF AMERICA
The Bank of America Access Loans program provides affordable and flexible terms for individuals with disabilities or access needs who need home modifications. Immediate family members borrowing on behalf of an individual with a disability are also eligible. For example, a parent may apply for an access loan on behalf of a child with a disability. Terms are available up to 72 months
Contact: 1-800-900-9000 (voice) or 1-800-833-2632 (TTY)
PNC Bank, in conjunction with New Jersey Citizen Action, offers the Self-Reliant Loan and Grant Program. This program can be used for any kind of accessibility issue – for permanent projects like ramps, service animal maintenance, scooters, computers with adaptive software or other types of special equipment. The program offers:
- Highly discounted interest rates and competitive repayment terms
- Loan amounts from $1,000 to $5,000, with no application fee
- A limited number of $1,000 grants are available on a first come, first served basis.
- Limit one grant per household.
- The New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) provides financial assistance through the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund. This program provides assistance to families whose children have significant health programs. Call (800) 335-3863 or visit the DHS website at: http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/cicrf/home/ for assistance.
- The Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) may provide access to home modification through a Medicaid waiver program, such as the Supports Program or the Community Care Waiver. These programs are only available to DDD clients enrolled in Medicaid. For information about DDD services, call (800) 832-9173 or visit http://nj.gov/humanservices/ddd/ for assistance.
- DDD and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) provide assistance with vehicle modification for individuals receiving services through the Family Support Services program. Families must exhaust any other services to which they are entitled before they can receive assistance through Family Support. Individuals may receive no more than $11,000 for home and vehicle modifications over a three-year period. DCF provides services for families with children under age 21, while individuals over age 21 receive services through DDD. For information about DCF services, call 877-652-7624 or visit http://www.state.nj.us/dcf/families/csc/.
- The Division of Disability Services (DDS) may provide access to home modification through the Comprehensive Medicaid Waiver. This Medicaid waiver program provides assistance for people who would otherwise require long-term care assistance. For information about all DDS services, call (888) 285-3036 or visit http://state.nj.us/humanservices/dds/ for assistance.
- The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) may provide access to home modifications as part of an effort to help an individual with a disability achieve employment.
- For information about all DVRS services, call (609) 292-5987 or visit http://jobs4jersey.com/jobs4jersey/jobseekers/disable/index.html for assistance.
1-877-762-7000 (voice) or http://www.pnc.com/. Visit your local branch for more details.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
The Rural Development program at the Department of Agriculture provides loans and grants to very low-income homeowners for housing rehabilitation. Call (800) 670-6553 or visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/had-rr_loans_grants.html for more information.
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT (HUD)
HUD provides a wide variety of services designed to increase housing options for Americans with disabilities. HUD programs can include providing access to low-cost financing, grants to communities seeking to help rehabilitate housing, and information and referral services. HUD also works to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities in housing issues. Call (800) 767-7468 or visit http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/pwd.cfm for more information.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)
The VA makes grants available to service members and veterans with service-connected disabilities for home modification and rehabilitation. Call (800) 827-1000 or visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/ for more information.
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE (IRS)
If an individual with a disability incurs home modification expenses related to medical or employment purposes, some or all of the cost may be deductible from federal income tax as a medical expense (IRS Publication 502). Call (800) 829-1040 or visit http://www.irs.gov for more information.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (SSA)
A Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS) allows an individual with a continuing disability eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income to set aside income for a short or long term employment goal, which can include home modification. A PASS must be approved by SSA. For information about applying for a PASS, contact SSA at (800) 772-1213 or visit http://www.ssa.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-plans-self-support.htm. Additionally, the New Jersey Work Incentive Network Support program may be able to assist you in applying for a PASS. Contact NJWINS at (866) 946-7465 or visit http://www.njwins.org/.
UNITED STATES ACCESS BOARD
The Access Board issues standards and guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for barrier-free construction. While the ADA accessibility standards do not specifically apply to residential settings, the standards can be a useful guide for individuals who are seeking to make their homes more accessible. For more information, call the Access Board directly at (800) 872-2253 or visit http://www.access-board.gov/.
Several state agencies have programs that may help certain individuals purchase modified vehicles. These programs each have different eligibility criteria, different levels of available funding, and different application processes. In order to apply for assistance, contact the agency directly. If you apply with a state agency for services, and are denied, DRNJ may be able to advocate on your behalf. Please feel free to contact our intake department at (800) 292-9742 if you have questions or concerns.
The local Centers for Independent Living (CILs) in each county can provide information about local resources, and can assist with advocacy and information about contractors. For contact information about your local CIL, contact the New Jersey Statewide Independent Living Council at (609) 581-4500 or visit http://www.njsilc.org/.
The Area Agency for Aging (AAA) in each county can provide information about home modification resources available locally. For contact information about your county agency, call (877) 222-3737 or visit http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/saaaa.html.