How to Decide to Move or Renovate – The Accessible Home

This guide will help you decide to move or renovate when you need an accessible home. Learn which ADA guidelines are worth following.
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The trend in accessible home designs is growing because of the increasing number of Americans with disabilities.  

According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Report, one in 4 American adults – 61 million – have some sort of disability that significantly impacts major life activities. Mobility issues, the most common type of disability type, affect one in 7 adults. As we get older, disability is even more common, impacting 2 out of 5 adults 65 or older. 

This is why Americans regularly face issues about how to decide to move or renovate to create an accessible home. ADA guidelines help guide these important decisions. 

Coleen Boyle, PhD, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, explains. “At some point in their lives, most people will either have a disability or know someone who has one.”

Plus, these statistics don’t include those affected by temporary disabilities but must cope with home accessibility issues until the injury heals or their condition otherwise improves.


Do You Move or Renovate? Follow These Steps to Help You Decide


Disabilities of any sort can make it difficult, or impossible, to function in many aspects of conventional residential settings. Bathing, climbing stairs, cooking, reaching, bending, walking, and performing everyday tasks in the home severely hinders an otherwise happy, productive lifestyle.

Because of tremendous advances in residential accessible standards, now you can experience good home mobility, no matter what your disability issue. Today’s possibilities are remarkable because of current accessible design solutions, based on the ADA Guidelines, with every expectation that future developments will expand further.

To determine what is best for your situation, follow these steps to decide how to move or renovate your home. 


Step 1. Determine Your Current and Future Accessible Needs

Working with your Occupational Therapist, other medical professionals, and ADA Guidelines, determine your current and future accessibility needs. Ask questions like:

  • Is your condition stable, or are your accessibility needs likely to escalate in the future?
  • Do you require a caregiver to help with activities of daily living (ADL)? What accommodations will they require?

Speaking of caregivers, we have to take good care of them as much as they take care of us. Learn how to recognize the signs of Caregiver Burnout From Compassion Fatigue, and How We Can Help.


How to decide to move or renovate - Activities of daily living


Check the list of activities of daily living (ADL) to determine in which area(s) you require assistance. 

  • Eating: Can you feed yourself? Can you prepare meals? What challenges do you have in these processes?
  • Bathing & Hygiene: Can you bathe yourself regularly? Do you require assistance? What extra tools such as shower chairs, tap turners or grab rails do you need (or will you)?
  • Dressing: Can you dress yourself? Can you make acceptable clothing decisions? Do you have trouble dressing your lower region (like sox, underwear, and pants) or your upper region (like shirts and coats)? Do you experience pain when dressing? 
  • Grooming: Can you style your hair? Can you keep your toenails and fingernails filed and tidy? Can you properly apply and remove your makeup, or is your facial hair maintained?
  • Mobility: Can you move around without the help of a walker, cane, or wheelchair? Can you get out of bed? Get on and off the toilet? Go up and down the stairs? Can you sit and get up from a couch or chair?
  • Toileting & Continence: Can you successfully use a restroom without assistance? Do you require disability aids such as a toilet frame, grab bar, or raised toilet seat? Do you require adapted underwear or bed pads? 


There are significantly more issues that could be on your list of accessible requirements. Are you sensitive to sound? Require specialized lighting? Are you hard of hearing and require light alarms instead of sound alarms? 

A home can be made more accessible and friendly to varying degrees of auditory, physical, cognitive, speech, visual, and other disabilities. Whatever your challenges, your home can uniquely reflect your lifestyle. 


Step 2. Determine What Needs to Be Renovated in Your Current Home

Once you determine your accessibility needs, go through your home to determine what renovations are required to meet those needs. 

  • Most homes require renovations to bathrooms, and many require changes to the kitchen. 
  • Do you need ramps? How many? Where? Indoors or outdoors? 
  • Will hallways need widening? Or just doorways? Can the space be made open concept to minimize hallways?


Be specific and be clear. Make a list of exactly what changes you foresee needing now and for your future. This is an important part of getting organized after a major diagnosis. It will also be a determining factor in your decision to move or renovate. 


How to decide to move or renovate - architecture


Step 3. Contact an Accessible Home Design Architect or Builder

Find a builder or architect familiar with accessible design and ADA Guidelines and give them a tour of your place. As you move through each area, explain the changes necessary. Ask them if they have any ideas to add (they often do because they see accessible designs every day!)

Get a quotation for the changes. Then, determine if you can access sufficient funds to finance the changes.


Step 4. Contact a Real Estate Agent 

Few real estate agents specialize in accessible design. But the best case is to find one who is familiar with the concept. You have three questions for this real estate agent.

  1. If you wanted to sell your current home, as is, what is it worth?
  2. If you were to make the accessibility improvements and changes to the property, what would it be worth then? Will the home be worth more? Less? The same?
  3. Is there likely a home available in any of the areas you would consider living in that already have accessible or at least universal designs? If so, what are they worth, and how much renovation would be required to make them fit your unique needs?


You will want to talk to more than one real estate agent. Real estate is not a hard and fast market, so everything will be estimates and opinions. Ask for at least 3 agents’ opinions from different companies.

Often, a very experienced agent (25+ years in the industry), a relatively new agent (<3 years), and one with average experience (5 to 10 years) will give you a well-rounded picture. 




Now you have some information to start making your decision to move or renovate. In many cases, the decision is already evident. As you asked the questions, the answer became obvious because there is really only one choice. In other situations, there is more decision-making to do. 

If you are faced with a muddy decision-making process, consider these questions.

  • Do you want to live through renovations? Could you go somewhere while the contractors or working? How would you manage that time? 
  • Can you do the renovations in stages? How will you cope with your accessibility issues during that time? If so, what are the priority renos? Bathroom first? Kitchen? Ramps? Indoors? Outdoors? 
  • Do you want to move? Do you like the idea of a different neighborhood? A new house? 
  • Do you want to shop for a house? Does the idea of looking at houses make you cringe, or is it exciting?
  • What does your banker say? What would be financially more manageable?  


Ultimately, your home is for you. Houses are the biggest investments most people make, so the finances have to be considered. But what you want and what you need is critical.

Weigh out the possibilities for how to decide to move or renovate to create your accessible home. The decision is as unique as your accessibility needs.