If age, a debilitating injury or illness has recently left a loved one wheelchair-bound, you have probably been looking into making accommodations in your home. But the most important room that you should be renovating may not actually be in your house, but may be outside -- it's your garage. Why the garage?  Because, depending on your home's layout, it may end up being the major point of ingress and egress for your loved one.  

The Garage Door

Take a quick look around your garage and especially at the door. Here are some areas that you should consider renovating if you decide to make the garage your wheelchair-bound loved one's main point of entry:

  • Does your garage door open automatically? If not, you will definitely need to have an automatic system installed and to have the remote control positioned at a level that is easily accessible for a person sitting in a wheelchair. Moving the control will also be necessary if you already have an automatic garage door installed. 
  • Choose a garage door that will allow in light for better visibility. Today, there are numerous garage doors on the market that boast windows for added lighting. 
  • Select a door with premium construction. These doors, according to the Do It Yourself Network, boast an inner and outer layer of either steel, wood or fiberglass. Between those two layers is another layer of polystyrene or polyurethane insulation. This added insulation is important since it will typically take you some time to load and unload your loved one from a wheelchair-accessible van and also to load up the chair itself. 
  • Lengthen the garage door's emergency release pull cord. That way your loved one will be able to leave via your garage door even if the automatic opener fails.
  • Have your garage door inspected. If this will be your loved one's main entrance, it is important that it is in good operating order. If there are significant problems or the door is older, you may even need to replace it. 

Wheelchair Ramps

In almost all homes, garages are set lower than the house so that gas vapors can't easily enter a household. That is why, in most cases, you will need to build a ramp for your wheelchair-bound family member. If you do decide to build a ramp in your garage, you will need to:

  • Ensure that you comply with the safe slope requirements for a ramp. The general guideline for wheelchair ramps is that you need 12 inches of ramped surface for every one inch of rise. You will also need a landing at the top and at the bottom that is at least five foot by five foot in size. You will also need another landing if your ramp includes any changes in direction. 
  • Set aside enough space. A ramp will typically take up an entire parking space in your garage. 

If you do not have room for a ramp in your garage, you might want to consider installing a small wheelchair lift, which could take up less space. Or, if you have the funds, you could renovate your garage to make it larger, which might also be necessary in order to accommodate a wheelchair-accessible van with a lift or a ramp and to also allow the wheelchair-bound family member the ability to travel around the vehicles that are parked in your garage. 


The doorway leading from the garage into the house must be at least 32 inches wide, so you may need to widen it. 

Renovations Equal Freedom

Renovating a garage to make it wheelchair accessible can be an important way to give your handicapped loved one more independence and a sense of freedom. So while these renovations may be costly, they are also necessary for your loved one, both for physical as well as for emotional reasons.