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  • Writer's pictureCharlinda Diaz

Why Every Home Should Be Accessible

The shortage of accessible housing and how it affects you.

The shortage of accessible housing is striking. Thanks to medical advancements, we are understanding and managing chronic illness better than ever + the longevity of our seniors is growing everyday! This is great news. This also indicates an ever increasing need for accessible housing!
  • 26% of Americans are living with some sort of disability? This means that if YOU don't have a disability, you most likely know someone (or multiple people) who do.

  • Approximately 15.5 million Americans are living with a physical disability... not to mention cognitive and behavior disabilities (Source: US Census Bureau, 2017 American Community Survey)

  • Just 8% or 1.3 million Americans with physical disabilities live in an accessible home.

  • Over 33% of adults over age 65 have difficulty accessing or using features in their home.

What's My Point?

  1. Nearly everyone has someone in their life who needs accessible environments.

  2. At some point, it is highly likely that you will also benefit from accessible design (ie. post ACL repair surgery, that ankle your kid sprained playing soccer, postpartum care, that time you threw your back out picking up the laundry basket, or that hip replacement you finally got)

The good news is, accessible design has come so far! There are many different variations of accessible design that are both subtle, beautiful and versatile. In fact, much of today's "accessible" design is just brilliant and sensible design with concepts that would enrich every new home or renovation project!

3 "brilliantly sensible" design methods everyone can and should incorporate into their home renovation:

  • Universal design: A method of design intended to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation of specialized design and use. (Source:

  • Adaptable design: A method of design that is easily adjusted and designed with constructs in place to allow for easy adaptation and modification of the function and space without extensive or structural changes.

  • Visitability: A space designed with accessibility to essential features (Ie. bathroom and primary living space) to allow people of all abilities to visit and perform essential functions easily and safely within the space.

*More on these fabulous design methods in future posts!

With such limited inventory of accessible homes, home renovations to increase the functionality and usability of homes is likely to increase significantly in the future! So, how do we assess if a home has potential for these design methods? Here are key things to consider:

- Adequate exterior space surrounding entry door- this will allow for lift or ramp modifications if needed.

- Potential 36" hallway access to bathroom and bedroom - know what's behind the walls when it comes to plumbing and electrical so that you can plan efficiently when widening doorways.

- Potential to widen exterior entry- consider the products used for the home exteriors, proximity of windows to the entry door, and the threshold heights.

- Entry door threshold height (3/4" or less is ideal)** Also BEWARE of sunken living rooms as these can present additional challenges that will need to be addressed.

- Potential for shower stall in first floor bathroom (Minimal dimensions for curbless shower: 36" x36")

- 5' turn radius in kitchen and living room. Again, know what is behind the walls and identify all weight bearing walls. This will inform renovation plans when creating open floorplans with adequate maneuvering space and accommodation for mobility devices.

- Potential for 36" width hallways- This is only essential for those who require hallway access for bathrooms and bedrooms.

*Talk to the township supervisor and familiarize yourself with the township regulations to ensure that the intended home renovations fall within the township guidelines.

If the home you intend to purchase includes these key characteristics, then this home has great potential to a livable and functional design that is inclusive for friend and family members of every ability who enter your home! With at least 92% of homes offering ZERO ACCESSIBLE features and with the growing demand for accessible homes, incorporating inclusive design into your home can add value now (in your everyday life) and in the future!

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