“When someone builds a home, they’re not just building it for themselves — that home’s going to be around for a 100 years.” –Eleanor Smith, Founder of Concrete Change
By Barbara Manning
Could Visitability Be More Important Than Healthcare?
According to the United Cerebral Palsy’s State of Disability there are 54 million people living with disabilities in America. The United States has a generally aging population; 2005 Census statistics indicate that there are 78.2 million aging Baby Boomers in America. At any time, an individual can develop a temporary disability. Unintentional falls are in the top ten of the list of injuries leading to an emergency room visit or hospitalization.
What can an individual do after breaking a leg if they live in a home with the bathroom on the second floor? They can seriously limit their fluid intake and only use the bathroom once or twice per day. What does an individual do if they break a hip? Every year, thousands of Americans face this same question. It is not enough for disability advocates to argue for Visitability on a state-by-state basis. Visitability must become a national priority. Too often individuals become prisoners in their homes because they can’t safely navigate the steps. Visitability could liberate millions of people living in isolation from their friends, neighbors, and communities.
What is Visitability?
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires access for people with disabilities for all new multi-family dwellings and a small percentage (5%) of single-family homes constructed using public funds. This law obviously does not address the vast majority of single-family housing in the United States.
Visitability seeks to make new housing accessible by having it meet three basic conditions:
- hallways and doorways wide enough for safe navigation by wheelchairs
- one zero-step entrance with a wheelchair approachable route
- one wheelchair-accessible bathroom on the main floor
Just making these three changes in the design of new homes is a cost-effective way for people to maintain their independence. Most people living with a disability will tell you that their biggest issue is living in a world that does not consciously accommodate their needs. A lack of easy access denies those who need it opportunities to interact, socialize, create, and enjoy friendships. Continue Reading