How to Build a Handicapped Accessible Home


Due to aging, disease or an accident people find it difficult to function in a house that is not adapted to their needs. With advances in medicine and people living longer, there are many individuals who need modifications to their home to be able to use it in its entirety and live comfortably. To build a handicapped accessible house means including a layout and features that make living in the home convenient, safe and usable.

Things You'll Need

  • List of items that are difficult to access and use in the home
  • House plans
  • Convenient location for building
  • Make a "features and functions needed" list for the architect. Determine what features or functions of living in a home are difficult or not accessible for the disabled individual. This could include items such as that she can’t reach the thermostat, there is not enough room in the closet, he can’t reach the light switch and electric receptacle over kitchen counter tops, the microwave is too high on the counter, she can’t hear the doorbell, or there is not enough light in the bathroom. There are ways to overcome most obstacles once they are identified.

  • Find a location that is convenient for the residents of the handicapped accessible house. Think about proximity to shopping, social activities, clinic locations, and church.

  • Locate the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (see Resources). This guide provides Standards for Accessible Design that applies to public and residential building. This information will help you and the architect understand the standards and will enable you to assist the architect when he is designing an accessible home.

  • Find a house plan layout that fits the dimensions and room needs. According to Building an Accessible Home, “for a wheelchair user an open floor plan, in particular for the major living spaces like the living room, dining area and kitchen, provides greater maneuverability.” This will show the architect or draftsman the overall configuration of the house. The house plans can be found on the Internet searching for “universal design,” “barrier free” or “handicapped accessible” house plans.

  • Work closely with the architect who has experience in drafting universal design homes. This professional should understand that there are design implications when meeting the needs of people with different abilities. Give him the list of "features and functions needed" you created. The architect should include features and functions in the home that overcome those specific obstacles

  • According to Senior Journal, include "a master bedroom and bath on the first floor and a low or no-threshold entrance to the home, with an overhang." Some other suggestions to make a home handicapped accessible include lever-style door handles for easier use of doors, install handrails on both sides of the stairways, and keep the floor plan as open as possible for ease of moving around the house.

  • Hire a general contractor who is familiar with handicapped accessible housing. This is an essential person who will ensure all specifications, features, and functions required in the home are built or installed properly. The sub-contractors he works with should also be experienced with building handicapped accessible homes.

  • Ask the city building inspector to provide input and approve the plans for building a handicapped accessible house. This individual will inspect the work of the subcontractors and provide his approval when completed satisfactorily.

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