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Planning for Accessibility 

By designing for a few simple and inexpensive features, you can provide for future accessibility requirements without having to compromise the look and feel of your home. Today's homeowner is interested in remaining in their home as long as is physically and financially possible, and one of the greatest hurdles to overcome in this goal is the inability of a home to adapt to use by the disabled and aged. If these accessibility issues are addressed during design and construction, both the resale value of the home and the residents' ability to continue living comfortably in the face of disabilities are greatly improved. 

Planning for AccessibilitySimply put, designing for accessibility is just basic preparation for your needs in the future. Here are ten simple, cost effective and attractive tips to remember when designing your home with handicap accessibility issues in mind. Also consult: Accessible Ideal Home Plans. 

1. Provide blocking in the walls of your home for the future addition of handrails. A simple and relatively inexpensive technique that obviates the need for extensive remodeling if rails become necessary. 

2. On two story homes, provide a "master suite" on the first floor. When stairs are no longer navigable, it is a good idea to provide a bedroom suite on the ground floor. This also avoids costly remodeling which may be prohibitive. 

3. Consider the approach to the house, if there are stairs required, plan potential locations for future ramps and design for them. If possible, keep stairs to a minimum. The more height that must be traversed to enter at floor level, the more ramp is required. Current American Disabilities Act guidelines state that for every foot you have to rise, you will need twelve feet of ramp. Obviously, this can very quickly consume a great deal of space. 

4. Use 42" wide hallways and openings throughout you home. This should be a minimum clear width when designing. Many accessibility issues can be addressed successfully using this dimension. 

5. Make sure that the doors to all rooms and closets provide a minimum of 32" clear opening. Typically this will require a 2'-10" door but a 3'-0" door is preferred. These dimensions will allow passage of both wheelchairs and walkers. 

6. Check approaches to doors for accessibility. Often you make a room accessible by simply changing the direction in which a door swings. Your architect should be familiar with the required approach dimensions and layouts. 

7. Use accessible door hardware. Using lever action door hardware instead of knobs can greatly increase the ease by which a person with difficulty grasping can operate a door. Levers are also an attractive and unique addition to your home. 

8. Design handicap accessible bathrooms. Use toilets that meet ADA requirements and verify that there is enough space allocated for easy maneuvering in the bathroom itself. Once again, your architect should be familiar with these requirements. 

9. Provide blocking in shower stalls for seats and handrails. As with blocking in the walls, this will greatly reduce the cost of installing handrails in the future. 

10. Make Lavatories and sinks accessible. When designing cabinets under sinks, allow for the area directly beneath the sink, including the toe kick, to open outwards. This will allow a wheelchair bound person to pull up directly to the sink 

Consult Accessible Ideal Home Plans for information on accessible designs.
UDA Idea Workshop Journal

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