Accommodating the Handicapped with Accessible Homes

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Accommodating the Handicapped with Accessible Homes
An accessible home is designed to accommodate everyone, including people of any age or capability. Handicapped accessible homes include those which are minimally accessible, homes that can be easily made accessible at a later date, and homes that are completely accessible, being characterized by ease of access, large bathrooms, and other safety features.
There are many different types of accessible home designs. Choosing the right home design begins with assessing your needs or the needs of a loved one.  A good starting point would be creating a list of what works well for you and your family in your existing home, which areas of the house are most commonly used, and which activities could be further improved through your custom home accessibility project. For example, the kitchen cabinets in your home may be too high for someone in a wheelchair, or the faucet on the kitchen sink may be too far away from the front of the sink. More complex projects are likely to require the services of a professional to aid in the design or construction of your accessible home. The following are the most common types of accessible home designs:


A visitable housing design is a home focused on being accessible for visitors that may require additional mobility support. It incorporates accessibility features that include a level point of entry, wider doors, and a washroom on the main floor. These homes are designed to ensure that those with impaired mobility, wheelchairs, or walkers can enter and exit critical access points with ease. This is a basic, but common accessible home design.


An adaptable home is designed to accommodate someone as their needs and abilities change over time. These homes are designed with future renovation in mind, ensuring that the renovation process is economical,  less costly and labour intensive than a typical accessible home renovation project of this magnitude would be. Features of an adaptable home include, but are not limited to, removable cupboards in the kitchen and/or bathroom and a knock-out floor panel for the installation of an elevator. Elevator lifts can also be placed in staircases where there are more than 7 stairs. This housing design should also include an exit  to somewhere such as a rear patio in case of emergencies. This approach was developed by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and is also commonly known as FlexHousing.


An accessible home is one designed to suit the needs of a person of any age or ability. Its features may include open turning spaces within rooms, wheelchair accessible  shower stalls, work surfaces with knee space below for wheelchair accessibility, and grab bars for safe transfers in the bathroom, shower, bedroom and living areas. Some additional features that may make the home more accessible are lower windows, raised appliances and a central environment control system. This system allows for the control of lights, wall outlets, the thermostat, and the TV/entertainment system from a central panel. In cases where mobility is an issue, these systems can be configured to unlock and remotely answer the door.


The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines a universal home design as one that recognizes that everyone who uses the home is different, with different needs, and abilities that change over time. Universal home designs often incorporate lever door handles, enhanced lighting levels to increase visibility, stairways with easy-to-grasp handrails, accessible entry points, and easy-to-use appliances.

 No matter your needs, the design and utilization of space in your home are critical to its accessibility, especially for those with mobility impairments. Accessible homes are designed to accommodate people with many different needs. To maximize the accessibility and utility of your home, it is important to first assess your specific needs to ensure that all the necessary adjustments or renovations are made. An accessible home is one that enables everyone to live without restriction, encouraging activity, independence, and a happy, healthy lifestyle. There are some wonderful online resources detailing the different types of accessible home designs available, such as those found at CMHC.

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