Leading Edge Resources: A Home of My Own

Proposal urges wheelchair-friendly home design. Ninety-five percent of federally supported homes are not required to meet any standard of accessibility. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) cited that shocking fact two years ago when she introduced the Inclusive Home Design Act (HR 2353). The bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on Benefits by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The term visitability incorporates three requirements: at least one no-step entrance; doors and hallways wider than usual; and at least a half- bathroom on the first floor big enough to accommodate a person in a wheelchair and allow that person to close the door.

That's it. No fancy amenities. No expensive accoutrements. Just construct the house so a person in a wheelchair can get in, navigate the hallways and use a bathroom on the first floor. Seems pretty simple… Experts in architecture and design estimate the total average cost per dwelling is $98 (on a concrete slab) and $573 (for a dwelling with a basement or crawl space).

ConcreteThe concept of visitability has been growing for the past decade or so. In fact, many states and cities have already trumped the federal government by enacting their own versions of this concept. The first city to do so was Atlanta, in 1992, largely as a result of the efforts of the grassroots group Concrete Change. Others were quick to follow, including Arizona, Vermont, Texas, Kansas, Oregon and the cities of Chicago, Champaign, Urbana and Bolingbrook, Ill. All of these mandates require visitability features in single-family housing paid for with public money.

sfProponents of visitability agree that inclusion of these basic architectural access features in all new homes constitutes a civil and human right. It is a right that improves livability for homeowners as well as their guests. (From SFGate.com , by Allan Appel, Scripps Howard News Service, March 9, 2005)