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How to Build A Beautifully Designed, Accessible Home

Blog Post submitted by Don Lewis, California USA

From Tracy Mance: Thank you Don for taking the time to reach out to me and submitting this lovely written blog! According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 61 million adults in the United States have a disability. By taking this into consideration and preparing a home with that in mind, it may be the assistance some one needs to continue to live independently and safely.

An accessible home should make life easier for the mobility impaired. While assisted living facilities are always an option, constructing your own home that suits your needs is an increasingly popular alternative. If you are building a home and you or your family have mobility needs, there are many accessibility options available to you that don’t compromise on style. Realtor® Tracy Mance shows you how to find a great balance between beauty and functionality in your next - or redesigned - home.

Benefits of Accessible Homes

Accessible homes make sense, even if you don’t have mobility issues at present. An accessible home allows for the needs of your senior years and offers ease of movement if you should suffer an injury. Accessible homes have come a long way since, and because of, the Fair Housing Act was implemented in 1991. Forward-thinking architects recognize that accessible homes are the future.

Do Your Research and Set a Home-Buying Budget

Whether you are building a new home or renovating an existing one, take the time to research trends in the local housing market, especially in terms of home prices, so you have a better idea of what you’re looking at budget-wise.

It’s also beneficial to use a home affordability calculator to determine how much you can spend on a mortgage each month. You don’t want to commit to a home that you cannot really afford. Nor do you want to pay so much for your house that you cannot afford the accessibility renovations. Furthermore, you’ll want to invest time in finding a designer and contractors that can create innovative solutions that are architecturally pleasing and tailored to your needs.

Design Principles for Accessibility and Safety

There are seven design principles for an accessible home:

Equitable use: creating solutions that work for all ages

Flexibility in use: designs that everyone can use (e.g., left and right-hand scissors)

Simple and intuitive: easy to understand (e.g., color-coding for hot and cold taps)

Perceptible information: solutions for all needs (e.g., a flashing door light system for people with impaired hearing)

Tolerance for error: non-slip tiles and no steps for people to trip over

Low physical effort: designs that require little to no effort to use (e.g., soft opening handles on doors, easy-touch taps and lamps)

Size and space: enough space to navigate for those who need mobility aids, like wheelchairs

Other concepts that are applicable for both the home or the office include ensuring that general safety is accounted for. Walkways need to be preserved and maintained free of obstructions. This is especially important for disaster planning when taking shelter or evacuating is a priority. Also check that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed, functional, and easily accessible.

Find a Designer or Architect to Meet Your Requirements

Creating your own home from scratch allows you to build the house of your dreams. Your accessible home need not compromise on design. The trick to building the accessible home that you have always wanted is to find an architect who is familiar with adaptive architecture to translate your vision into reality.

Make a mood board of design features you love and would like to appear in your home. You can gain inspiration from many sources: look at real estate photos to pick up design tips or google professional staging photos for interior design that express your individuality. Better Homes and Gardens suggests using an app like Canva or Pinterest to make your mood board.

Find the Right Contractors

Your architect or design company can help you find a contractor to build your home. Alternatively, you can look for recommended contractors yourself. Ask family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors for recommendations. You can also search online for reputable builders in your area.

Thoroughly research and interview each contractor. Ask to see examples of previous work — plus points if they are experienced in accessibility remodels. Request references from former clients to find out if they are satisfied with the quality of work. Finally, before starting work with any contractor, make sure you have details like payment plans, deliverables, and timescales firmly in writing.

Additional Points to Consider

Approach to the house: car parking, design of the garage, level access.

Main entrance: door width and opening mechanism, level access, entry systems.

The layout of the house: including wider doorways and corridors, sliding doors, and accessible light switches

Kitchen design: height of counters, access, and safety requirements.

Bedroom design: ground floor bedroom, ensuite requirements.

Bathroom: grab rails, shower stall with a seat, and elevated toilet.

Facilities for care workers and therapists: extra accommodation for carers or a therapy room.

Alarm systems: smoke alarms with flashing lights and doorbell cameras for the hard of hearing and pull chords or easily accessible emergency alarms for people at risk of falling.

Smart home devices: smart lights, smart assistants such as Alexa or Google Home that can automate everything from your TV to heating, and voice-activated security systems and smart locks.

Bringing It All Together as Moving Day Nears

This will be a big move, and your best bet is to plan ahead to ensure the challenges aren’t too bumpy. Make a checklist so that you can feel more confident about settling in. This should include setting up all the utilities and necessary services, and having a final walk-through with someone new so a fresh set of eyes can pick up on anything of concern.

You’ll also want to vet and hire local movers who can make short work of transferring your belongings. Just be sure to look for a company that is licensed, bonded and insured, and don’t overlook asking for discounts.

Making Your Perfect Accessible Home

Accessible options can be built into your home design without compromising on looks. There are many technical and design innovations available for mobility-impaired homeowners, but be realistic about your budget. If you are building your dream home, consider adding accessible features so that you can safely enjoy your house well into your later years. Work with Realtor® Tracy Mance to help you either find an accessible home or a house you can modify that fits into your finances.

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