Making Your House More AccessibleUniversal house design recognizes that everyone who uses a house is different and comes with different abilities that change over time. Features include lever door handles that everyone can use, enhanced lighting levels to make it as easy as possible to see, stairways that feature handrails that are easy to grasp, and easy-to-use appliances.

Even if you are completely able-bodied and have no one in your family who is disabled, you should know about universal design for two reasons:

1) your circumstances may change as you age and

2) a house with universal design features will make your home more saleable in the future.

The idea behind “aging in place” is to enable individuals to live independently in their homes for as long as possible. The goal is to avoid having to relocate simply because one’s home is too difficult to get around in. Being able to “age in place” may just be priceless in a few years.

When planning renovations, keep easy to implement features in mind, as it may not cost any more money up front. It may just be a case of choosing wisely, like lever door handles instead of knobs.

Accessible house design is design that will accommodate everyone, including people with disabilities. Accessible housing includes houses that are minimally accessible, houses that can easily be made accessible at a later date, and houses that are completely accessible with power door openers, large bathrooms and so on. Some of the most common types of accessible house designs are whether the house is visitable, adaptable, or accessible.

An important component of Universal Design is the maintenance of aesthetics. In other words, to create something that is still “visually pleasing” to others despite being accessible to everyone. Function does NOT have to sacrifice beauty. As a result, universally designed homes can be just as beautiful and welcoming as any other design approach. Increasingly, experts are referring to the concept of Universal Design as the “wave of the future.” It is the hope of Universal Design advocates that eventually all buildings, homes, and products will be designed to meet the needs of everyone.

A visitable house includes basic accessibility features that allow most people to visit, even if they use a wheeled mobility device. Basic features of a visitable house include a level entry (either ramped or ground level), wider doors throughout the entrance level and a minimum ½ washroom (toilet and sink) on the main floor. An adaptable house is designed to be adapted economically at a later date to accommodate someone with a disability. Features include removable cupboards in a kitchen or bathroom to create knee space for a wheelchair user, or a knock-out floor panel in a closet to allow installation of an elevator. This approach is also known as FlexHousing™. An accessible house includes features that meet the needs of a person with a disability. Most accessible houses feature open turning spaces within rooms, wheel-in shower stalls and kitchen work surfaces with knee space below.

12 renovations that make your house more accessible and more saleable

Remember, a home that has universal design features is a home that fits everyone’s needs, whether they are young or old, short or tall, with physical limitations or without.

As an accredited Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES®), I’m happy to discuss this or any other real estate topics with you in more detail. Let me open doors for you.  

– Chip Barkel, MCNE, SRES, Toronto Real Estate. Extraordinary Service. Top Results.