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20 Design Tips for a Wheelchair Accessible Home

May 19, 2020

Universal home design (also known as inclusive architecture or accessible design) is a principle that benefits people with varying needs and levels of mobility, from the differently-abled to those aging in place. If you're building or remodeling with accessibility in mind, get started with our thoughtful design ideas.

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Photo: Michael J. Lee Photography. From: Kate Maloney Interior Design.

Design for All

Approximately 26% of Americans live with a disability, a majority requiring the use of a wheelchair or other mobility device. As the population ages, that number is on the rise. The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) attempts to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to — and convenience in — public spaces via a range of codes and recommendations. Unfortunately, many private homes lack basic accessibility features. While no two people have the same set of needs, many universal design features can be added to an existing home or included in building plans to allow those with varying levels of mobility to live as independently and safely as possible without sacrificing style.

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A Grand Entrance

As seen on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, this beautiful ADA-friendly home was completely renovated to suit the needs of a California teacher with a prosthetic leg. To make coming and going a breeze, the designers created an inviting front pathway out of wide, flat, non-slippery concrete for easy navigation. The path leads to a wide front door with no front step, which can be a tripping hazard or barrier for wheelchairs.

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Photo: Brian Patrick Flynn

Lever Handles

Mandated by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), lever handles are easy to operate whether or not someone has full use of their arms and hands, and they don't present difficulties to guests in wheelchairs.

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Wide Open Entry

To be ADA-compliant, the width of an entry must be a minimum of 32 inches when the door is fully open. But many designers recommend 36-inch to 42-inch openings for those who have to pilot their own wheelchairs, making busted knuckles a thing of the past. Seen here, a wider-than-normal front door opens into an open-concept kitchen with sufficient space for a wheelchair to navigate.

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