Data from a National Health Interview Survey on Disability (NHIS-D) show there are about 1.6 million wheelchair users in the United States who are not living in an institution (such as a hospital or health care facility). Only a small percentage of this population has the aid of an electric wheelchair, while the majority use a manual device.
The most effective flooring for a wheelchair user is one that is smooth, even and hard. Soft or pliant surfaces, such as carpet and cork, can make wheelchair travel tiresome as more work is required to move across the surface. Studies included in the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) show that less energy is needed to move a wheelchair across linoleum and concrete than low- and high-pile carpet.
The various types of hard-surface flooring - which includes tile, linoleum and laminate -each come in a more durable variety that is suitable for wheelchair users. While hardwood flooring is available in harder types, these can still dent and warp over time under a wheelchair. Laminate is a great alternative to hardwood and bamboo flooring as it can look just like those floor types while being less expensive than those materials. Plus, it comes in forms designed for heavy commercial use. This means less risk of denting due to wheelchair traffic.
Walker and Cane Users
People who use walkers, canes and crutches may need a more slip-resistant surface at home. Rubber flooring is ideal for those who use walkers as it is shock absorbent (which can help cushion falls) and offers just enough slip-resistance to prevent feet from sliding.
Rubber flooring is resilient and will not dent under walker prongs or canes. In addition, it's firm enough to still be a great surface for wheelchair users. Some manufacturers offer rubber flooring in a variety of colors, patterns and even marble imitations, so you can have safer flooring that is also beautiful.
Some illnesses can result in symptoms which impede one's natural walking motion and cause joint pain. Installing carpet or cork flooring may be an ideal solution for those who suffer from aching knees, feet and legs. In addition to helping cushion potential falls, cork floors provide a surface that's resilient, or "gives," a characteristic that can help make walking more comfortable.
In comparison to most floor types, carpet and cork are unique in that they can resist changes in climate. This means no matter the season, they can maintain a relatively warm surface that most bare feet find agreeable. Another benefit to installing carpet and cork in your home is that they can help reduce indoor sound transmission.
For a surface that's both durable as well as comfortable, consider linoleum flooring. Linoleum is made almost entirely from organic materials and offers a surface that most people find comfortable. Cheaper types of linoleum are available, making the task of repairing and replacing linoleum a less costly process than hardwood, cork, and bamboo.