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What is Home Accessible Design?
When you consider accessible design, you probably think about commercial or institutional settings and applications. In some ways, home accessible design seems like common sense. On the other hand, it is truly revolutionary when applied to home design to age in place and improve quality of life.
Accessibility is about fitting your home to the requirements of the people who live there – no matter if they use a wheelchair, hearing aids, a white cane, or bifocals. The US Census tells us that one American in five has a disability of some kind.
Many cope with mobility or dexterity issues, hearing or vision loss, intellectual limitations and other “invisible” disabilities like cardio-pulmonary disorders. According to the AARP, ten thousand Baby Boomers in America have their 65th birthday every day. By the age of 65, one in two Americans has a disability of some kind.
With infirm older relatives, progressive illnesses, and the simple wish to age in place, homeowners like the idea of home accessible design to improve quality of life.
Truly accessible living features cater to young families with young children, those with temporary injuries, seniors and anyone living with a disability. Then again, the elements of space and ease of access are ideal for anyone living in the home to enjoy every day.
Many of the same inclusive designs allow for greater livability when a home is first built. Of course, the same principles apply to retrofitting a property when the need arises.
Home accessible design features are significantly easier to incorporate in the beginning design stages of a home, instead of facing renovation projects later on.
Home Accessible Design Features
For someone without mobility issues, exactly what makes up home accessible design may be a surprise. Here are some examples of how you can age in place for the best quality of life.
- Safe, continuous, no-step path from the street or parking area to a level entrance
- One or more level no-step entrances into the home
- Minimum of 32” internal doors for standard wheelchairs and 40” for heavy-duty chairs
- Hallways should be 40” to facilitate unimpeded movement
- Level entry washroom on the ground floor with 48” clearance for easy access
- Step-free shower access
- Disability technology like lift systems, smart bidets and an easy stand
- Reinforced walls around the shower, tub, and toilet to support safe grab bar installations
- No-step entries, wide hallways, and concrete paths outside are all practical livability features that make homes more accessible, easier to navigate and overall nicer to live in
Even a few stairs can have a devastating impact on the ability of a person with a physical impairment to move freely around their home. People live longer, so home accessible design simply makes sense for every residential property.
But if you or a family member already cope with mobility challenges, you need your home to be even more versatile. Organizational challenges meet logistical issues every minute of every day. Home accessible design helps meet the changing needs of occupants over their lifetimes.
New-home designs now adapt to meet these changing needs in our community. New home builders have begun to cater to our country’s aging population to age in place and those with specific mobility needs.
Undoubtedly, properties with home accessible design features will be in much higher demand into the future. Homes with accessible features meet the needs of everyone for a better quality of life, no matter their age or ability.
What is an Accessible Home Design Style to Improve Quality of Life?
When you were thinking about that commercial design, the image was likely quite sterile and cold. But that’s not what home accessible design means. You can add any home décor style, trend or fashion to modern, accessible design.
Accessibility incorporates seamlessly into new-home designs adding to the function AND the aesthetics. The latest design concepts and trends merge with accessible design features, creating beautiful, functional homes to suit your family.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1991 changed the design of public buildings, so these changes are finally making their way into our homes. A new generation of architects and builders, disability-rights advocates, and policy planners see the possibilities of an accessible environment.
State and local building codes mandate accessible public areas. Still, for residential properties, it is the unique requirements of the inhabitants that set the standards.
Private homes virtually still experiment with residential accessibility. People with disabilities now collaborate with occupational therapists and other medical and design professionals to make everyday life more comfortable.
For parents who are hard of hearing, the removal of walls and the addition of glass doors help oversee the children in the next room. For someone with low vision, storage cabinets in different areas of the house, mean essential items are handy.
Home accessible design is creative and specifically tailored to the individual special needs of the residents.
Kitchen and Dining Areas
This kitchen and dining areas provide a roadmap for activities to prepare and eat meals.
Groceries arrive and require storage in the fridge or pantry. Work islands double as a serving counter. Appliances like the cooktop, wall oven, microwave, sink, dishwasher, and fridge are close at hand. Just a quick spin in a wheelchair. For a cook who stands, spatial proximity is less physically straining with more efficient kitchen activity.
Universal or Inclusive Design to Age in Place
Home accessible design staples are wide doorways and step-free entrances, which are useful when pushing a baby’s stroller or using a mobility device. Paddle-type handles replace the knobs on sinks and doors, which are handy for when you have your hands full of groceries or for a person with weak upper body strength.
These universal or inclusive design details represent an approach that everyone can use with greater ease. This progressive movement and design philosophy have homeowners, architects, realtors, builders, and designers embracing the concept.
Big airy rooms with generous outdoor views are features that appeal to everyone while supporting people with many types of disabilities. Universal design is genuinely a common-sense design.
So, how many accessibility features can you imagine?
- A wall-mounted sink allows for knee space below
- Paddle-type faucet handles make it easier for the person who finds it difficult to twist knobs
- Low shelves put storage within reach
- Tilting mirrors adjust for easy viewing, standing or seated
- Light switches and outlets in contrasting colors to the wall make for better visibility.
If you still wonder what home accessible design is, consider how these inclusive ideas improve everyone’s lives, to age in place, especially those with special needs. Motivated people with disabilities can improve their quality of life and overcome challenges.