Millions of Americans grow up with high hopes that they’ll one day inhabit a “dream house” that’s built to their exact specifications. Countless others look at their current abodes and, happy to stay, begin planning out how they’ll renovate their homes for long-term comfort and such things as handicap accessibility. Whether you’re looking to build a new home from scratch or simply want to renovate your current house, designing for accessibility isn’t always easy, but it’s nevertheless crucial and worthwhile for all those involved.
Here’s how to design a home with accessibility in mind, and what mistakes to be looking out for.
Understand what accessibility means
Many people who have little experience with physical handicaps don’t necessarily understand what accessibility means; for many, a home is “accessible” if you can enter the premises without any issue. To truly make a home into a handicap-accessible area, however, you may need to take extensive steps to retrofit the premise until it’s wholly welcoming and comfortable for those who may have difficulties navigating on their own. An accessible home is one where wheelchair users can freely roam, where countertops are easily accessible to all who need them, and where such facilities as the restroom are hassle-free to use even if you’re living with a handicap, to name a few examples.
Designing for accessibility isn’t always easy, and it certainly may not be cheap, but it’s crucial to understand that accessible living spaces are an essential human right that every person should be able to enjoy regardless of the circumstances thrust upon them by birth. You can’t really call your home a welcoming abode if it’s unfriendly to one of the millions of Americans who rely on mobility scooters to get around, for instance, so why would you call it accessible if those in a wheelchair or with crutches can’t enjoy it?
First and foremost, design a home for accessibility by assessing the needs of those who will use it. You can’t help anyone whose needs you misunderstand, after all. Private residences aren’t subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which regulates most public buildings in terms of their accessibility, but you can still rely on the prudent measures offered by that legislation when determining the overall accessibility of your building. Are your doors wide enough to allow passage in the event that a visitor is in a wheelchair? Are your tabletops and countertops accessible to those who may be in a seated position? Such questions as these are the ones you’ll be grappling with as you attempt to renovate or design a home for greater accessibility.
Pay special attention to bathrooms
Bathrooms should be given unique consideration when designing a home for accessibility, largely because everyone needs to use them sooner or later and they can be frustrating to navigate in certain situations if you’re living with a handicap. Take some time to review what it takes for a bathroom to be ADA compliant to understand what you’ll ultimately need if you want your home to be accessible; grab bars which can assist with movement, accessible toilets, ample room, and standard hygiene protocols will all be needed to ensure that your bathroom is entirely accessible to those who need it.
Other areas to pay special attention to include your garage and the area leading up to your private residence. How might a person in a wheelchair exit vehicles in your garage? Is there a ramp nearby which can enable them to access your front door? Making sure that doorknobs are properly placed and reachable by all is another important facet of designing a home for accessibility.
You may not have mobility impairments yourself, but ensuring that your abode possesses enough “visitability” that others could come and enjoy your company is essential if you want to dwell within an accessible home. Having a zero-step entrance to your home, focusing on wide-passage doorways and hallways, and having a bathroom on the main and most accessible floor are all attainable and admirable features of a home even if you don’t currently have a mobility impairment. Always ensure that there’s plenty of maneuvering space for those who are in a wheelchair; picking up stray toys and household equipment which has fallen on the floor is essential if you’re about to act as the host of those with mobility impairments.
When designing a home for accessibility, focus on usable kitchens and bathrooms and put plenty of emphasis on having zero-step and otherwise accessible entryways into your abode. Remember that grab bars and counterparts which are easily accessible from a seated position may be necessary for your home to be fully welcoming to those with disabilities. Above all else, be considerate and forward-thinking when designing your home, and soon you’ll be well prepared to deal with any accessibility issues which may arise.