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Do you have a “visitable home”?

Eleanor Smith is a lifelong wheelchair user. She suffered not being able to go to many friend’s or family’s gatherings because their home was not accessible.  She was not able to find suitable housing when she first moved from her parent’s home, and had to crawl on the floor to use the bathroom for six months.  As she drove past a series of houses being built with front steps, more homes that she couldn’t enter, she decided to initiate an effort to make homes inclusive for everyone. Eleanor started a movement that every newly constructed homes be a “visitable home.”


Visitablity refers to the ability of every person being able to access a home, whether they are using a stroller, scooter, walker, or wheelchair.  If you suddenly found yourself in a wheelchair, could you live in your house?  Would you be able to visit all your friends and family?  If a loved one lost mobility, could they easily come into your home?   Would there be a bathroom they could use?  Unfortunately, very few houses have been built to be a barrier free home.  A University of Florida Research project found that 25-60% of homes will at some point be occupied by someone with a long-term mobility impairment.


A Certified Visitable Home need to have these three elements:

  1. A no-step entry, including no thresholds that can trip a person.
  2. Doorways at least 32” wide and hallways with 36” of clear width, so a wheelchair can pass through.  (Bathroom doors are typically 28” wide)
  3. A wheelchair accessible bathroom on the main floor.

The additional cost of making a home visitable at the time of construction?   About $100 or more depending on the cost to slope the entrance.  The cost of home remodeling later, e.g. to add a ramp (which is not as attractive as a zero level entry!), create a universally accessible bathroom, and widen hallways and doors?  It could be over $40,000.  Hire a design professional that has the national certification of Universal Design Certified Remodeler, or a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help create attractive solutions.  With the increase of demand for universal design, there are more appealing bathroom products available. An accessible bathroom can avoid looking institutional.

Setting the standard that all homes be visitable home has been gaining acceptance. To anticipate the needs of Baby Boomers who in 2011 started turning 65, many state’s communities have incorporated the visitable home standards in their building codes: Vermont, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, and Arizona (Tucson and Pima County). Atlanta Georgia’s Habitat for Humanity has been building the majority of their homes to be visitable since 1990.  Request you local ordinance to adopt the standard of making every newly built home, a visitable home.  It could concern the next house you want to buy.

When it is time to remodel, make your house a visitable home to be welcoming for all.

Happy Home Remodeling Phoenix!

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