Creating a Visitable Home
Visitability is a term from Tha Natioanl Council on Independent Living that means creating a home that can be visited by people with mobility impairments. Our discussion of visitability aims to expand this approach to making home welcoming of people with a wide variety of common disabilities, functional limitations, or health conditions. The key idea is that a home isn’t just built for one person or even one family, but should be welcoming to all people in the community who may want to visit.
Homes come in all kinds of sizes and shapes, but one common element is that most homes were designed and built for the average home buyer. The average home buyer are young to middle-aged adults, with few to no health issues or disabilities. These home often function well for the young home buyers, but may pose barriers and struggles that were unexpected. Features of the home like stairs to enter the house, small showers, and dark hallways work fine for an able-bodied person, but will become problematic when family and friends start to visit the home (or are unable to visit).
There are several movements working to address this problem on a large scale by introducing the ideas of universal design (read more here) and visitability to building professionals to incorporate into all homes.
- More info on visitability can be found from the National Council on Independent Living. They outline key concepts for building and remodeling homes, such as having a zero-step entrance, doorways that are 32″, and a wheelchair accessible bathroom on the main floor.
- Whole Building Design Guide provides good visual examples.
Another approach is for home owners to begin to adapt their own homes to embrace the concept of welcoming people of all abilities into their homes. This approach is more customized to the needs of each home owner and those who want to visit their home. Here are a few example: A family may add a grab bar to a main floor bathroom for Grandma Helen when she visits. A young couple might replace their from step with a graded sidewalk during a landscape remodeling to allow their niece who uses a walked to more easily visit. Grandparents might add a second handrail to their basement steps to help a grandchild with motor delays walk downstairs to a play room.
Do you have particular areas of your home you are concerned about?
Are there specific family members or friends you want to make it easier for them to visit your home?
Looking for ideas for your family?
The holidays are a time when the visitability of homes get tested. People often aren’t aware of the multitude of barriers that can make visiting others’ homes challenging, and often these barriers can stop some people from coming to visit altogether.
However, some simple improvements can be made to homes to increase visitability for a variety of people, making your home more welcoming to everyone. While not all these ideas are true home modifications, they accommodations that are fairly quick and easy things you can do today.