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Building housing that is universally accessible has always made sense—common sense and dollars and cents. For one thing, it's less expensive to build a home one can age in, not to have to sell and move once stairs become a nuisance to the occupants.

Now makers are paying more attention to design and, even more importantly, America's 76 million Baby Boomers are retiring, making the idea of "aging in place" a popular one.

Visitability (also known as basic home access or inclusive home design) makes a home livable to anybody experiencing a temporary disability, such as a sprained ankle, pregnancy, or knee-surgery. At some time in a person's life (and hopefully not for long), it's usually inevitable, but for millions of Americans, disability is a way of life

That is why more building is being done with "visitability" in mind. Depending on where you live, state and federal regulations are evolving to mandate visitability.


What is visitability?

Visitability is an affordable design approach that integrates accessible features in newly built homes. The goal is for a person with mobility impairments to be able to live in a home or receive disabled visitors there and also to visit the homes of other people. Accessible features are cost-efficient because they're included during the design stage rather than added on later.

Houses that are visitable have a gradual rise to the front door, rather than steps. They have wider doorways (at least 36 inches), first-floor restrooms with enough turning axis for a wheelchair and grab bars. Lowered electrical switches and outlets are also included in some municipalities. And that's it. Nothing fancy - no lifts, elevators, or assistive devices.

Visitors can be grandparents, friends, siblings, or the not-so-unusual individual who uses a wheelchair. Accessibility is even useful to "latchkey" kids when lowered counters are installed.

Special Needs Checklist - How Disability Friendly is Your City?
While visability refers to homes, it can also describe a community such as a neighborhood or city.  This checklist reviews questions to ask when planning a visit or re-location.