What is “accessible?”
An accessible house includes features that meet the needs of a person with a disability - open turning spaces within rooms, wheel-in shower stalls, and kitchen work surfaces with knee space below.
What is Universal Design? Why do we need it?
Universal design aims to create housing which could be used by anyone regardless of ability or disability. It goes beyond mere accessibility, and demonstrates an underlying commitment to including as wide a range of users as possible, including those with vision, hearing or other disabilities.
Take a video tour of a universal design apartment by clicking here.
What is a Visitable Home?
A visitable home includes basic accessibility features that allow most people to visit, even if they use a wheelchair. Basic features include a level entry, wider doors, and an accessible washroom on the main floor.
What is an Adaptable Home?
An adaptable home 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.
Common Aging-in-Place Features:
One no-step path to a no-step entry that can be at the front, side, rear, or through a garage (1/4–1/2 in. thresholds)
No step access to patios, balconies, and terraces (1/4–1/2 in. thresholds)
Doorways have at least a 34 in. wide clear opening with appropriate approach clearances
Door handles are 34–38 inches from the floor
Hallways and passageways are 42 in. clear minimum
Access to at least one full bath on the main floor with reinforced walls at toilets and tubs for the future installation of grab bars
Cabinetry in kitchen that allows a person to work in a seated position
Light switches and electrical outlets 24–48 in. from finished floor
Stairways have tread widths at least 11 in. deep and risers no greater than 7 in. high
Good lighting throughout the house including task lighting in critical locations (e.g. under kitchen cabinets)
Contrasting colors to promote good perception of edges and boundaries
Clear floor space of at least 30 x 48 in. in front of all appliances, fixtures, and cabinetry
Front-loading laundry equipment
Ample kitchen and closet storage or adjustable shelving within 28–48 in.
Comfortable reach zones
(Steinfeld and White, 2010)
What does universal design look like?
Daniels Corporation's "Accessibility Designed” program is a beginning.
Video tour of a Société Logique apartment in Montreal:
It's A Human Right
Ontario Human Rights Commission
Canadian Human Rights Commission
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for monitoring Canada's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention promotes and protects human rights for people with disabilities. The Commission is in charge of keeping track of, or monitoring, how the Convention is put into action in Canada. It is the Commission's job to identify gaps and problems that need to be fixed.
For more information:
The Accessible Housing Network is a founding member of the Accelerating Accessibility Coalition (AAC), a first-of-its-kind community of real estate and accessibility leaders, launched in 2022 to make physical accessibility a greater priority. https://toronto.uli.org/programs/the-accelerating-accessibility-coalition/
AAC is developing an Accessibility Toolbox of resources that promote the development of new homes that have accessibility built in, not bolted on afterwards at extra cost to the homeowner or tenant.
To join AAC, send a Statement of Support to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Accessibility Coalition.
The Accessible Housing Challenge to All Developers:
Build a residential building that fully uses universal design (all units), advertise it as “Euro-design”, and do not tell anyone it is universal design (fully accessible) until 80% of the units have been sold.
As one architect suggested: “Call it 'Euro-design' and everyone will want it”.
Tapping into the disability purchasing market:
Many companies in the real estate and design industry largely ignore people with disabilities.
What are they doing in other places?
AUSTRALIA: Universal Design is now the law in Australia, under the new National Construction Code.
NORWAY: Universal design in non-discrimination law Only a few countries require the application of universal design and establish that inaccessibility is a matter of discrimination. In Europe, Norway is, along with Spain, one of those countries that actively promote both concepts and practice in universal design. In Norway universal design is an enforceable legal standard. In order to get a loan from the Norwegian State Housing Bank, you must meet certain quality criteria for universal design in housing.
DENMARK: The Danish government supported a multi-generational co-housing initiative called “The Second Half of Life”. It is housing to keep older adults healthy and active and to promote aging in place. Plus: Cohousing units in Sweden.