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How can I improve home accessibility?

This picture is an accessibility nightmare, a hill with lots of steps. Might as well be Mount Everest for anyone who isn't upright and able to climb.

Accessibility into your home starts at the street, regardless of how well designed your space is on the inside. You must first get TO the door before you can enter THROUGH the door, an important consideration for a home's livability as well as visitability by others. Common sense, right? 

Unfortunately most owners don't consider accessibility even within the house until it becomes a problem, regardless it begins at the street. Imagine pushing a baby stroller, pulling luggage, or if you were injured in an accident or wanted to welcome into your home a visitor who uses a mobility aid (e.g. cane, walker, wheelchair), how would someone get to your entrance, let alone through the doorway? Even from a convenience perspective, what would be the easiest route to travel carrying furniture or lugging boxes. Consider elevation changes and potential tripping hazards.

Test yourself. Borrow a stroller, rolling suitcase, wheelchair or crutches and you'll discover that even a quarter inch rise hinders, maybe not in successfully navigating with a leisurely pace, but in physical exertion which could potentially be dangerous when coupled with foul weather and other personal health factors.

Among the solutions to smooth the ride, use different ground cover treatments (landscaping), plan alternate easier routes (via the side, rear, through a garage) or modify sloping (remove/add dirt). Due to innovation in building science and sustainable design, a host of Eco-friendly materials and applications (e.g. pervious concrete, porous asphalt, porous turf, single-sized aggregate) are being marketed for this purpose of improving efficiency and mobility.

Notice above I didn't write "build a ramp". I'll devote a post to ramps, which should be avoided as a last resort if access can be achieved in another way.

Obviously, the appropriate solution for your unique circumstances will depend on the literal lay of the land (topography) from your vehicle to the preferred entrance into the home.

Next I cover one of the staples of Universal Design, the zero clearance entry, which will include alternatives to ramps and lifts.

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President Todd Hawkins preaches building science and Universal Design (UD) to teach the benefits of an efficient, convenient, comfortable and flexible Lifetime Home. Also follow him on Twitter @BuilderFish for short tips about how kid-friendly UD makes home life easier and more secure for any person of any age or ability.

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