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Picture of a house with a zero-step entrance (7)
Picture of a house with a zero-step entrance (7)

There is a mass movement to make houses, old and new, more accessible to those who may have limited mobility. There are three key features that houses of this nature should have:

1) at least one zero-step entrance into the house

2) doors should have 32 inches of clear passage space

3) there should be one bathroom on the main floor that is wheelchair accessible (1)

Below, you will find more information on the 'visitability movement', the need for this change, some supporting organizations and presence in the government, and how to increase the visitability of your home.

The Need for Change

Eleanor Smith, founder of Concrete Change (8)
Eleanor Smith, founder of Concrete Change (8)

Issues of visitability were introduced to the American people in 1986 by Eleanor Smith through an initiative she called "Concrete Change," which started in Atlanta, GA and has grown to a nation-wide phenomenon (2). Inspired by initiatives years earlier to make buses handicap accessible, Ms. Smith noticed how houses in Atlanta were not handicap accessible. After being diagnosed with Polio and confined to a wheelchair at a young age, Ms. Smith faced daily challenges, an environment with no curbcuts and buildings with narrow doorways (3). The passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 required public buildings to become handicap accessible and prohibited businesses from discriminating against those with disabilities when hiring (4).

After this milestone was reached, Ms. Smith's original initiative spread all over the country. Building new homes with increased visitability has many benefits. It would accomodate for temporary injuries that leave individuals unable to ambulate without an assistive device. It would allow for those who do not need assistive devices comfortably host those who do, such as a family inviting over grandparents. As medical advances continue, people will continue to live longer, even if they may need assistance; having a home that is handicap accessible is a lot less expensive than nursing homes, where the median cost of a private room in 2010 is $75,190 annually, a jump of $14,965 just from 2005 (5). Also, with individuals aging, having accessible houses would allow people to live in their houses longer without needing to make modifications as they age.

Support for the Cause

Below are a list of cities/states who have begun making legislative changes in support of visitability--more information can be found on the website for "Concrete Change" (2): Toledo, OH- 2005 Bolingbrook, IL- 2003 Iowa City, IA- 2002 San Antonio, TX- 2002 Kansas House Bill 2020- 2002 Pima County, AZ- 2001 Austin, TX- 1998 Atlanta, GA- 1992 Urbana, IL Florida- 1989

More states are continuing to address visitability and are looking towards developing programs to promote the three key features (mentioned above) (6). For more information or to get involved, people should contact "Concrete Change" or their local legislative representative.