News from LIFE, Inc.

Working toward ‘Visitability’

The Idaho Access Project is participating in this year’s Avenues for Hope Housing Challenge to support our work in 2023. The focus will be on changing the way residential subdivisions are designed, built and marketed in Idaho to create more inclusive neighborhoods.

The three essential features for visitability are:

1. One entrance with zero steps

2. 32 inches or more of clear passage space through interior doors, including bathrooms

3. At least a half bathroom on the main floor usable by someone in a wheelchair.

Some initiatives include reinforcement in walls next to toilets for future installation of grab bars and light switches and electrical outlets within comfortable reach for all.

The relevant visitability factor is having a high number of visitable houses built, not a high number of features within a house.

Visitability is a movement started by Eleanor Smith and her Atlanta-based organization, Concrete Change, in 1987, and refers to an affordable, sustainable, and inclusive design approach for integrating a few core accessibility features as routine construction practice into all newly built homes. Visitability focuses on laws and policies, not merely education or voluntary initiatives. Because the cost of visitability in new construction is virtually zero, desirable laws do not have to have added financial benefits from the public sector for developers, such as tax cuts or other resources.

Single family homes comprise over 70% of the nation’s housing stock and are typically not covered under federal laws. (e.g., Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fair Housing Act of 1988). As the visitability movement moves forward, old and young disability advocates, design and planning professionals, homebuilders, and homebuyers must become engaged in the movement to increase adoption.

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