Access for All Requires "Visitability"
Visitability is a growing trend in housing that was brought to the national stage in 1987 by Eleanor Smith and her Atlanta-based organization, Concrete Change. The term refers to a new home design that, when built, can be both lived in or visited by persons challenged by steps or who use the assistance of a wheelchair or walker.
Smith’s own experiences while growing up and those of others with similar limitations helped her to understand that change in how homes were designed was needed, and with that came the term “basic access.”
The High Price of No Access
In an interview with The Ragged Edge Magazine in 2003, Ms. Smith stated that the idea of “Visitability” began while she drove through a new housing development—all of which had steps at every entrance.
Having lived with a disability since the age of three, Smith knew the difficulties that came with lack of access to, and within, a home.
Smith stated that she “paid the price” when it came to lack of access when she couldn’t visit her friends and loved ones in their homes.
What Constitutes a 'Visitable' Home?
The basic access features of the Visitable home are an extension of the concept of Universal Design. A home that achieves the concept of Visitability can be identified by several different architectural conditions, including:
- A Zero-Step Entrance
- At a Minimum, have a Single Half-Bath located on the First Floor of the Home
- Doors with a minimum of 36 inches of passage space
- Electrical outlets in reachable locations and switches less than 48-inches above the floor
- Lever door handles, and rod-style handles on cabinets and drawers
- Adequate wheelchair turning space in all areas of the home, especially the kitchen and bathrooms
- Walk-in showers
- Quality lighting throughout the home
Why Consider Visitability During Construction
If incorporated during construction, these few yet specific Basic Accessibility features are very affordable and dramatically improve the inclusiveness of the home.
While many individuals find it difficult to plan for the future when constructing a new home, it is a vital piece of the puzzle, especially if aging-in-place is something that is being considered.
Accessibility is much simpler to accomplish during the building process than it is during a renovation, so it is important to design with inclusiveness in mind.
Accessibility For All means creating suitable designs for all ages, and Visitability does just that.