Building a Luxury Home for Accessibility

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Building a Luxury Home for Accessibility 

If you or a loved one is facing a disability or physical limitation, and you’re able to stay in the home, then building or renovating your property for accessibility will likely be a priority. It’s important to understand that you can build or renovate an accessible home with features that are appealing for general resale. And accessible homes do not have to look like a hospital or rehab facility. The key is to create open spaces that provide easy movement between rooms.

Accessibility

Legal Obligations


Although private homes are under no obligation to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a good homebuilder will be familiar with the law and its requirements. The law provides clear standards for equipment and installation. Safety will be a key concern during construction or renovation, and tested standards are essential to getting the job done right. The process can be fairly simple for new construction or the renovation of a relatively newer home. When it comes to renovating historical buildings for accessibility, the homebuilder will need to work closely with local zoning authorities to ensure that the town standards for preservation are being met.

Yards and Thresholds
The home entrance is the first thing to consider. A good Architect and homebuilder will be able to meet the regulations and safety needs of the homeowner while also developing an entryway that is visually appealing. When designing new construction, you have the ability to start from scratch. A fully accessible home will be built with the entryway flush with grade. This way, you can walk or roll a wheelchair directly into the home without the obstruction of steps. A smooth pathway can be built that runs along the side of the house to the back, and connects to a back patio that is also flush with the rear entry.

Most renovation projects will require retrofitting a ramp for access into the home. Ramps will need to be at least 3 feet wide and have a gentle slope. Regulations dictate the grade of ramps, and these figures vary depending on the exact usage. A good homebuilder will guide you here. When adjusting or installing thresholds, they will need to be no greater than a half-inch in height. Doorways need to be 36 inches wide, minimum.

Interiors
When designing home interiors for accessibility, you’ll want to focus on clear paths of travel. Again, there’s a 36-inch minimum for hallways and doorways, and you’ll want to avoid sharp turns where possible. For those who are mobile but unable to move quickly, it’s important to include handrails throughout the house, particularly in bathrooms. Handrails can be built to be decorative and removed at resale. Stairs should be shallow; 7 inches would be the maximum tread height. Floors should be smooth to avoid tripping and to allow for wheelchairs.

If you’re building or renovating a property that has a second floor, an elevator can be a critical component. Elevators can be built with high-quality finishes, and integrated into a home to be aesthetically pleasing. There are three general types of elevators: hydraulic, traction, and pneumatic. Hydraulic elevators take up quite a bit of space, as they require a machine room for the equipment. This is a better option for new construction. Traction elevators work by sliding up and down a track with the use of a counterweight. They do not require a machine room. The pneumatic elevator works by using air pressure to slide a tube up and down a cab. The equipment required for this type is very minimal.

It’s often useful for architects and builders to have a chair with them at roughly the height of a wheelchair, and to sit in it when considering design. What’s comfortable and accessible? What’s out of reach and will need to be moved?

Finally, consider safety when building or renovating. Ensure that surfaces have rounded edges to limit injury. Discuss alert systems that can be incorporated into the home’s electronic systems. Above all, try to incorporate those who need the access in these discussions. It’s difficult for many to understand the day-to-day reality of disability, and that feedback will be invaluable to constructing the best possible home.