There are two approaches to creating an accessible residence: as a renovation project, or as a component of the design of a new home. Both options allow homeowners and occupants to focus on individual accessibility needs if they so desire.
The ideal site for an accessible new home will be as level as possible. This allows for the construction of a single-floor home and facilitates accessible design. Accessible homes can be built on sites with slopes, but ramps may be required for level changes.
Even if a site is not perfectly suited for an access-friendly home, there are architectural techniques that can be used to ensure the house is accessible. For example, if the site is on a slope, it may be possible to build the house near the top of the slope and have the driveway lead close to the front door, so that the owner’s car does most of the steep climbing.
While the home is being designed, attention must be devoted to access to and around the home. Functional and recreational parts of the site must be easy for the homeowner to move between. This includes paths to areas where clothes are drying or outdoor living areas.
Renovations to existing houses represent a great opportunity to make a home more accessible. At DDA Design, we are happy to provide ideas about design elements that can make a home more accessible for everyone.
Accessible housing needs to be both aesthetically pleasing and functional. To achieve this, spaces in a home must be easy to move around. An accessible layout should make getting around easy for disabled occupants by connecting logical areas, such as the laundry area and clothesline or the carport and the foyer.
Even if these logical connections are made, it is important that a home has corridors and circulation routes that are built to accommodate universal access. Additionally, pinch points and other chokepoints with restricted access can pose problems to universal access. One effective method of solving this problem and maximising the use of available space is employing an open-plan design.
A home with universal access in mind is more liveable for everyone, and is more likely to meet the needs of its inhabitants over the long term. This improved access benefits children, the elderly, and those with disability.
If a home’s occupant has one particular disability, specific provisions may be required. For example, someone with a wheelchair may require more clearance between furniture and doorways to facilitate their passage.
The goal of universal design is to plan space properly based on its function and users. Generally speaking, the most accessible design style for a home is one with plenty of open space and as few passageways as possible. Hallways, especially narrow ones, can be difficult for people with disability to navigate.
By area, bathrooms are often the most expensive rooms to construct and furnish. They are also one of the most important rooms where universal design must be considered: the functional value of a home is greatly diminished if occupants cannot comfortably use the bathroom. A successful bathroom will be designed to enable easy access to fixtures and facilities by inhabitants, even as their needs change over time.
Bathrooms have complex design challenges and should not be constructed without referencing Australian Standards.
A bathroom that is built for universal access will benefit all users. Allowing enough room for a person with a wheelchair to manoeuvre comfortably will make bathroom facilities more accessible for all people. Installing a shower with level entry can make access easier for everyone and will make this part of the bathroom much more accessible for someone in a wheelchair. Since bathrooms and toilets tend to be the most expensive to renovate for universal access, it’s important to consider how they may be adapted to provide long-term support for inhabitant access, even if those requirements change over time.
The kitchen is usually the most welcoming room of any home. As the heart and soul of a home, the kitchen needs to be warm and inviting, to allow people to gather and share great meals and experiences. If a kitchen is to be truly welcoming, everyone should be able to access it.
Kitchens may be designed for improved accessibility through the strategic placement of spaces for food preparation and dishwashing, effective lighting, well-placed storage facilities, and handles and controls that are easily reachable. An accessible kitchen is more likely to suit the needs of a family or individual owner, even as these needs change over time.
A kitchen can also be personalised based on the accessibility needs of a particular individual. For example, lowered bench-tops may be used for someone in a wheelchair, while contrasting colours could be incorporated into the home design of someone who is vision impaired.