Tools for Medical Modifications Series: Part 2 of 3
Floor Surfaces can be treacherous – Impairment-of-mobility problems in the home should be addressed by careful attention to floor surfaces provided in the home. For instance wheel chairs and mobility devices function best on smooth, hard and even surfaces. However, some floor surfaces with these characteristics can be “slick” causing rollers or wheels to skid and preventing stopping or lack of traction to start to move. The ideal smooth floor surface should have a light granular texture called a “slip resistant” finish by tile manufacturers. For wood floors, the finish should have the same characteristics as the tile, a “slip resistant” finish. Manufactured wood products can be specified with this finish and natural wood can be finished in this manner. Carpet floor surfaces can be specified in this situation by using commercial high traffic types with flat tight weaves that will function well with mobility devices. In impairment of mobility situations, a ‘glue down’ type of carpet is preferable to using any type of pad in the installation. Pads would violate the hardness criteria and cause difficulty in movement of a mobility device. Shag or deep pile carpet is not suitable to use if mobility devices are contemplated for use in the home or on the particular floor surfaces.
For impairment of mobility problems an additional factor of evenness of the floor surface is also important. With tile and wood floor surfaces, joints can be a problem, whether formed in manufactured products or created in the field installation. Extreme care must be taken to specify very narrow and shallow joints in floor surfaces to prevent wheels or legs from encountering the joint and moving erratically, thus causing a safety issue. Color is important for sure footedness and confidence in negotiating the path for mobility challenged person. The color of the floor surface should be light and must avoid patterns. Changes in elevations, doorways and surfaces can be indicated by variations in the color to warn the traveler of an upcoming change in floor surface. Particular care must be taken in tile floors to avoid having depressions around drains or high thresholds at changes in floor surface materials even though the surface may be slip resistant. These irregularities in floor surface can cause erratic movements of mobility devices and a safety issue for persons using them. Floor surfacing thresholds should be the ‘roll over’ type with a maximum of ½” of rise. Whatever the impairment of mobility problem in a home, adjusting the floor surface is the key to proper home modifications.