Accessible Home Design for People With Disabilities

As the aging-in-place movement grows, more consumers are enlisting architects to renovate their homes.


The kitchen is another big renovation people don't want to pay for, but if you're getting takeout every night because you can't cook in your kitchen, it may be worth the cost of a renovation.

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What about for customers who set a budget for renovating their home and don't want to adjust it to pay for features that would provide easier mobility?

Choosing to do something in a less costly manner is something we might regret later on. So I say the budget should be reasonable and somewhat flexible, instead of "What are you going to charge us in order to do this?" You should prioritize the work and price it out in pieces, so that you have some latitude in meeting your budget.

In the book, you describe a home as a place where people can retreat when they need protection or simply a place where they're free to express themselves. Do people with physical disabilities view a home differently?

I think everyone looks at it as an environment as having barriers or opportunities, but certainly the barriers would be different and the opportunities would be different for someone with a disability. I say an accessible home removes barriers and creates opportunities.

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What are some of the areas people neglect when making their house more accessible?

Utility spaces. Laundry rooms. Storage areas. Mudrooms. Closets. Dog-walking and dog-washing space—many people with a disability will have a guard dog or guide dog, so making an accessible space for pet care is important.

How rewarding is it to help someone with a disability with your designs?

It's always a good feeling knowing you can make a client's life easier. I save letters from my clients. They say things like, "Your design brings us together as a family." I find that to be a lot more rewarding than when I was making sure public buildings—courthouses, libraries or [city halls]—were accessible.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

When I started this book, I expected to see a lot of high-tech renovations, but it's really the low-tech devices that work. Good, accessible design isn't about gadgets—it's about choosing the right products and installing them properly so that they don't break.

*Quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Corrected on 04/12/13: A previous version of this article misstated the risk of a cracked bathroom floor.