Do all assisted living communities offer care to people in wheelchairs or who need wheelchair assistance?

  1. Molly Dworken 10/16/2012 05:33PM

    As providers of senior housing, assisted living communities must comply with the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including those who use a mobility device such as a wheelchair due to an ambulatory disability. Many assisted living communities require their residents to be ambulatory – in other words to be able to move from place to place on their own or with assistance from a cane, walker, wheelchair (motorized or non-motorized), cart, or scooter. Depending upon state law and licensure requirements, assisted living residents in wheelchairs must be able to transfer on their own or with the assistance of just one other person. If they require the help of more than one person or they are unable to bear any weight, they will be required to leave the assisted living community for a higher level of care offered by a skilled nursing facility.

    There have been federal lawsuits filed challenging prohibitions that assisted living communities have put in place with regard to the use of motorized wheelchairs and motorized carts in public areas such as dining rooms or other public areas. The resolution on several cases was to permit the use of motorized mobility aids except in instances where their use would constitute a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would result in substantial physical property damage.

    With its older resident population, many assisted living communities are designed with wheelchair access in mind. Doors and hallways are wider, and wide-angled mirrors are hung to allow persons in wheelchairs to see behind them and around corners to avoid collisions. Spaces in assisted living facilities that are open to the public, such as dining rooms, recreation rooms, lounges, and restrooms, are required to comply with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).

    Private apartments in many assisted living communities provide accommodations for wheelchair-bound residents, such as wider doors and hallways; lower light switches, sinks and countertops; easy-use door handles; wheelchair-accessible showers; grab bars; raised toilets; walk-in closets; and other convenient features.

    There are, however, some buildings that have been converted to senior care communities that are not wheelchair accessible; be sure to inquire accordingly.