The ARC’s Lifelong Communities Partnership Looks at Accessibility Options for Houses

The Atlanta Regional Commission‘s (ARC) Lifelong Communities Partnership is a group of professionals working to develop and promote standards for communities for people of all ages and abilities. The group recently opened a discussion about accessibility options for houses by exploring “visitability”.

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In the image above, Laura Keyes introduces the concept to the group. Visitability is a movement to provide basic access to for mobility-impaired people. It’s not accessibility – that’s much more comprehensive and is currently mandatory in most commercial buildings. It’s not universal design – that’s also more comprehensive. Visitability is limited to three construction practices:

1. One zero-step entrance to the house. It could be at the front, back, garage or some other entrance so long as you can roll to it.

2. All doors on the main floor of the house have at least thirty-two inches of clear passage space. [The main floor of the house is the level on which the public spaces like the living room and kitchen are located.]

3. At least one half bath with a maneuvering space on the main floor. The maneuvering space would allow a wheelchair to turn around. A full bathroom is preferable to a half bath if there’s available space.

We think these attributes are desirable whether a person has a disability or not. The door in a garage or carport of single-family homes is the door we typically use to enter and leave the house. It makes sense to have a zero-step entrance at that door to make it easier for all if us. Even if you have just a few steps at the door you use most often – a zero-step entrance with a lever handle on that door would be a great improvement for you. Tasks like bringing in the groceries would be easier and safer (from falls).

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The idea of visitability has been championed by Eleanor Smith of Decatur, Georgia. You can learn more about her work and find additional resources on the Concrete Change website. Eleanor recently attended the Lifelong Communities Partnership meeting to discuss accessibility in houses.

Ryan Taylor was the keynote speaker at the Lifelong Communities Partnership meeting this month. He presented a potential path to get the construction practices of visitability into the Georgia building codes. By pursuing a permissive appendix to the International Residential Code (IRC), we could add a few pages to the end of the building code that governs residential construction in Georgia. Because the appendix would be permissive, local jurisdictions could decide whether they want to include visitability in their requirements.

Over the coming year, the Lifelong Communities Partnership will host discussions for interested parties to explore technical, branding and education options for the construction practices of visitability. The meetings will be in preparation for a possible building code task force within the Construction Codes Division at Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs.

If you’d like to contribute, please use the contact information on this website so we can get you in touch with the ARC staff responsible for the Lifelong Communities Partnership. Also, if you use Facebook, you can like the Lifelong Communities page for more information:

http://www.facebook.com/lifelongcommunities

Of course, you’d already know that if you’ve liked the Facebook page for Ryan Taylor Architects LLC:

http://www.facebook.com/ryantaylorarch

We’re interested in any other similar resources that you can share so please leave a comment to let us know if there’s anything we’ve missed. Thanks!

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