Making a home accessible after a severe injury can be overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s one mom’s advice.

Alison Bowen, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Lifestyles

Still, some resources are available in Illinois.

For crime victims, the Illinois Attorney General’s office has a Crime Victims Compensation Fund that pays for losses incurred by crime victims, including the purchase, lease or rental of equipment necessary to make a victim’s property more accessible.

For people younger than 60, the Illinois Department of Human Services offers a Home Services Program for eligible applicants who need help with daily life in their home. A gunshot victim who suffers a spinal cord injury, for example, might be unable to access the bathroom. They can seek help with adaptations like grab bars, the widening of a doorway to enter the bathroom, or installing a roll-in shower.

And the Illinois Assistive Technology Program, a state nonprofit for Illinoisans with disabilities, offers loans up to $5,000 for home modifications.

In Chicago, the city’s Department of Housing will provide small home improvements for low-income seniors, like wheelchair ramps and door repairs, at no cost through the Small Accessible Repairs for Seniors program.

For people younger than 60, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities has a home-modification program that can help with things like ramps, accessible sinks, stair lifts, roll-in showers and widened doorways.

One issue with some of this funding is that although applications are accepted, funding can run out. For example, new applications for the city’s home-modification program are being rolled over to the beginning of next year, a city spokesperson said.

During her own search for information and resources, Sickel Baumann said she found a lot lacking. She was surprised at the lack of financial help available, especially for young people. She learned so much over the course of two years, she has considered hosting informational sessions for people in similar situations.


The first thing to think about, she said, is the steps to get someone in a home.

“The golden rule is you have to be able to get into the living space,” she said.

Many people need a ramp or a lift. Other questions to consider: Could the person live on the first floor without too many costly renovations, and in a space offering enough privacy? Baumann and her family made a bathroom accessible on the first floor, so that her son didn’t need to navigate stairs.

“It’s very important that people assess what the needs are of their particular person,” she said. “Our son is only 21 years old, so he’s very hardy. He could easily get on a mechanical lift and come up. But elderly people, you have to think, would they be able to operate that by themselves?”

The family also considered her son’s overall wellbeing. He could no longer visit his “cool-guy cave in the basement,” she said. But he wanted a place to meet friends, so they extended their patio and set up furniture in his now-bedroom, to create places for him and his friends to hang out.

They also chose the back route for him to enter the home, because her son did not want a ramp in front of the house. “He didn’t want people to perceive that he was not able to be a functioning citizen. He’s very, very sensitive to that.

“He is an amazing human being,” she said. “It’s been a journey, but he is a great guy.”

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