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Adapted from "Making Homes Accessible: Assistive Technology and Home Modifications" at
  • Accessible design generally refers to houses that meet specific requirements for accessibility. These requirements are found in state, local, model building codes, and the regulations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standards A117.1-1998, and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines. These regulations, guidelines, and laws dictate standard dimensions and features such as door widths, clear space for wheelchair mobility, countertop heights for sinks and kitchens, audible and visual signals, grab bars, switch and outlet height, and more.

  • Adaptable design allows some features of a building or dwelling to be changed to address the needs of an individual with a disability or a person encountering mobility limitations as he/she ages. Essential design elements such as wider doorways and halls and barrier-free entrances are included as integral features, while provisions are made for features to be "adapted" (modified or added) as needed. To meet the definition of "adaptable," the change must be able to be made quickly without the use of skilled labor and without changing the inherent structure of the materials. For example, bathroom walls may be designed with additional supports for the future installation of grab bars. Cabinets under sinks can be designed to be removable whereby the storage space under the sinks are replaced for knee space for a wheelchair user.

  • Equitable Use: Useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

  • Flexibility in Use: Accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

  • Low Physical Effort: Can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

  • Perceptible Information: Communicates necessary information to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.

  • Retrofit: To modify an existing structure with new parts or equipment that were not available at time of manufacture.

  • Simple and Intuitive Use: Easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

  • Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

  • Tolerance for Error: Minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

  • Universal Design (UD): The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

  • Visitable: Refers to homes that are not only accessible to guests with disabilities visiting the homes of nondisabled hosts, but to the future needs of the nondisabled residents as well. "Visitability" is an advocacy movement proposing that when topographically feasible, basic access to all new homes is a civil right. Access features essential to visitable homes are a zero-step entrance, accessible hallways, and bathrooms with doors wide enough for a wheelchair user to enter. Such features make a home visitable to guests with disabilities and can help a resident adapt in his/her home should the resident's needs change due to a disability or reduced mobility.

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