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What are some accessibility features you think should be more standard in home design?

mateohao | Posted in Building Code Questions on

Hi guys,

I visited a friend recently and got to meet her grandmother, who not too long before hurt herself slipping on her steep, wet, unlit, uneven, un-handrailed, stacked-boulders-for-stairs to her front porch. The costs to the family both financial and social have been immense.

This got me to thinking of ways to improve the usability of my own house, which badly needs a remodel anyways. Biggest thing I thought of was constructing a graded ramp from the front yard to the back door and using low-clearance thresholds so I can move big things in and out of the house with a trolley. Curb-less showers. Maybe placing electrical outlets somewhere that isn’t near the bottom of the wall always behind furniture.

What are some accessibility improvements you wish to see more often in homes?

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  1. lhbasle | | #1


    I'm the middle of a home design right now and the most important one besides what you have listed is the use of wider doors to accommodate a wheelchair. "Aging in place" design is the common architectural term and there is a lot of information online under that subject.

  2. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #2

    Try to put all your commonly used areas on the main level. These tend to be he kitchen, master bath, master bedroom, living room, and a laundry room.

    It’s easy to locate electrical receptacles higher than normal. The usual electrician’s rule of thumb is to use their hammer to measure from the floor to the bottom of the box. I prefer 18” height myself, but you can go higher. Note that I’d you go too high things start to look weird. Occupancy sensors instead of light switches in some areas (especially bathrooms) make lighting handsfree, which can help handicapped people.

    Narrow doorways should be avoided, and you should use lever-type door hardware everywhere instead of knobs.

    If you’re going to have someone wheelchair bound in the house, hard floors are easier to roll around on than are carpeted floors too.


  3. lance_p | | #3

    I've designed two straight staircases into our house, the main reason for which is to allow easy and affordable installation of stair lifts in the future if needed. Straight stair lifts are relatively affordable, roughly $3,000+/-. As soon as the lift rail needs to be customized for a curved or bent staircase the cost can be 3-4x that.

    Yes, a bungalow is easier to deal with but we're still relatively young people and a bungalow of equivalent size would cost a small fortune more to build compared to a 2 story, and would cost much more to heat and cool. A key part of "Aging in Place" is being able to afford the place, and afford the bills after it's paid for and we're on fixed incomes.

    Interior doors will be mainly 36", with a few 32" where space constraints exist. Access from the garage will allow space for a platform lift to be installed if necessary. A ramp-style walkway leading to the front of the house may be done, though our front entrance is dropped by two steps.

    48" clearance between the kitchen island and the counters. Nearly barrier-free showers (3/4" lip). Sit down corner bench in each shower. Pre-installed blocking in the walls for future installation of grab handles/bars, and gypsum board under tile for non-compressible substrate for handles to fasten to (no foam core board like Schluter Kerdi). Blocking in walls around toilets for same reason.

    Ceiling space in the garage to accommodate a vehicle lift. At my age I can easily work on a creeper and jack stands, but I want to do all my own vehicle work as long as I'm able to turn a wrench.

    Space in the garage to comfortably house a full size snowblower and easily get it in and out. I don't want to rely on services to clean my driveway.

    Space in the garage for bicycles, yard tools, and a garden shed outside for the kiddie pool when the grand kids visit.

    Lots of space in the garage for cars and being able to open doors fully, as well as open the trunk/hood with the car inside and the garage door closed, room to get groceries out. Garage space is cheap to build compared to interior house space, no need to skimp, and we shouldn't be awkwardly squeezing between cars and other stuff.

    A small "tinker bench" in the basement to work on small projects without having to heat it. A larger space in the garage to work on larger things, preferably heated when needed. Being retired means keeping busy. Staying off the couch and away from the TV is probably the best way to stay healthy.

    Just a few random thoughts.

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    Here is an article on the topic: "Universal Design."

  5. Expert Member
    Akos | | #5


    More of an ergonomic improvement, but I think it would also help with accessibility. I lifted my dishwasher about 18" up from the ground.

    1. lance_p | | #6

      Ah yes, wall ovens higher than a regular range are a nice touch too. Expensive, but nice.

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