Accessible housing

Accessible housing design accommodates everyone, including those with disabilities, including houses that are minimally accessible, houses that can easily be made accessible at a later date and houses that are completely accessible.

  • House designs and floor plans PDF

    These case studies provide details on the type of house, the profile and needs of its residents and the design features that make the house visitable, adaptable, accessible or universal.

  • Living spaces PDF

    Consider the principles of universal design when creating, renovating the various living spaces in your home. The resulting home will be safer and more accommodating to everyone who lives or visits there, regardless of their age or physical ability.

  • Bathrooms PDF

    A universally designed bathroom takes into consideration everything from manoeuvring space and ease of cleaning, to grab bars and walk-in bathtubs and showers.

  • Kitchens PDF

    Specific design considerations relating to kitchen layout, countertops, cupboards, controls, lighting, sinks, and flooring materials can help to make your kitchen more accessible.

  • Appliances PDF

    If you have a disability, the mere design of an appliance can make it difficult to use. Select appliances by understanding important design considerations, and the safety features of each one.

  • Exterior spaces PDF

    As things change and family members come and go, how you use your outdoor space will change too. Design an adaptable and flexible exterior space by assessing the various ways in which it might be used.

  • Ramps PDF

    Wheelchairs and other mobility devices require ramps be built in different areas of the home. Before building a ramp for your home, you will want to understand how it should be built and what materials to use.

  • Lifts and residential elevators PDF

    Residential lifts and elevators can be beneficial to people with mobility issues that wish to remain in their homes as they age. Find out what types of residential lifts and elevators are commonly available in Canada.

  • Residential hoists and ceiling lifts PDF

    A hoist or ceiling lift can help if you have difficulty safely moving yourself or others in and out of bed or a bathtub. There are several considerations when choosing and installing a hoist or ceiling lift in a house, condominium or apartment.

  • Fire safety for you and your home PDF

    When preparing your household’s fire and emergency plan it’s important to include those with mobility or cognitive limitations. Map out safe and accessible evacuation routes which are flat, stable and have no stairs or steps.

  • Home automation PDF

    Home automation systems can control all elements of your home environment including: lighting, appliances, telephones, and home security and entry systems. This is beneficial to people with physical, sensory and mental disabilities allowing them to live more independently.

  • Visitability PDF

    Visitability is one of the simplest and most economical approaches to universal design that can address homeowners’ and community needs over time, contributing to a more flexible and sustainable built environment.

  • Low-Cost and No-Cost home modifications PDF

    Inexpensive ways to improve safety, comfort and accessibility.

 

 

Webcast — Accessible Housing by Design

Did you know that housing that is designed and built to reflect the principles of universal design is safer and more accommodating to everyone who lives in or visits it, no matter their age or physical ability?

{VISUAL: Title appears on the screen: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation — Accessible Housing by Design. An illustration appears of a house with pencil sketches marking potential future renovations, followed by a photograph of a woman in a wheelchair holding some documents.}

This webcast will introduce you to the concept of Universal Design and provide an overview of the Accessible Housing by Design series that is available for free on CMHC’s website.

{VISUAL: The photographs disappear as the screen fades to a bullet list providing an outline of the webcast. The bullet list is set against a background of drafting paper and the image of a technical drawing compass.}

{Text on screen: Accessible Housing by Design Series: House Designs and Floor Plans; Lifts and Residential Elevators; Living Spaces; Residential Hoists and Ceiling Lifts; Bathrooms; Kitchens; Home Automation; Appliances; Exterior Spaces; Ramps; Fire Safety for You and Your Home.}

It will help you to understand the issues and principles that are important for planning and designing accessibility into your home to accommodate everyone, including people with disabilities. The series includes detailed information for all of these areas, as well as a general introduction to Universal Design and Accessible Housing.

{VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list. On the right of the screen is the image of a blank computer screen.}

{Text on screen: Information you will find in each publication: Universal design principles; Design considerations; Questions to ask yourself as you plan; Floor plans and layout that illustrate the design concept; Designing for manoeuvring space, minimal effort, safety, ease of cleaning.}

CMHC’s Accessible Housing By Design series will guide you through planning and design for accessibility in all areas of your home and yard. In each of the publications in the series, you will find a discussion of Universal Design principles, general design considerations, questions to ask yourself to assess your needs, and floor plans and layouts that illustrate the design concepts provided.

{VISUAL: A diagram of a floor plan appears on the computer screen, which shows how the layout of the furniture in a typical family home could allow for accessible paths of travel throughout the living space.}

The guides also provide detailed information about efficiency of the design, implementing the concept of minimal effort, manoeuvering space, considerations for ease of cleaning and maintenance, and more.

{VISUAL: The bullet list and computer screen fade out, and the screen fades to a series of images showing a technical sketch of a house under construction, a residential elevator with a handrail, and the large sunlit entryway of an accessible home.}

{Text on screen: What is Accessible House Design?}

Accessible house design is design that will accommodate everyone, including people with disabilities. Accessible housing includes houses that are minimally accessible, houses that can easily be made accessible at a later date, and houses that are completely accessible with power door openers, large bathrooms and so on.

{VISUAL: The images of the elevator and sunlit entryway fade out, and are replaced by a new bullet list outlining the three main types of accessible house design.}

{Text on screen: What is Accessible House Design? Visitable: easy for anyone to visit your home; Adaptable: easy to adapt your home to changing family needs; Accessible: fully wheelchair accessible home.}

Some of the most common types of accessible house designs are:

  • A visitable house includes basic accessibility features that allow most people to visit, even if they have limitations such as impaired mobility. Basic features include a level entry, wider doors throughout the entrance level and a washroom on the main floor.
  • An adaptable house is designed to be adapted economically at a later date to accommodate someone with a disability. Features include removable cupboards in a kitchen, or a knock-out floor panel in a closet to allow installation of an elevator. This approach is also known as FlexHousing™.
  • An accessible house includes features that meet the needs of a person with a disability. Most accessible houses feature open turning spaces within rooms, wheel-in shower stalls and kitchen work surfaces with knee space below.

{VISUAL: The bullet list and sketch fade out, and the screen fades back to the drafting paper background. A quotation appears on the screen.}

{Text on screen: Universal Design Principles: “The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”}

Universal Design is a broader concept than accessible design, which is defined as: “The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

The philosophy of Universal Design is to create spaces that are comfortable, pleasant, safe, and usable by everyone, be it children, older people and people with disabilities. Universal house design recognizes that everyone who uses a house is different and comes with different abilities that change over time. Universal Design philosophy and principles can be applied to all of these home designs.

{VISUAL: The quotation fades out, and is replaced by a new bullet list that outlines the seven key principles of Universal Design.}

{Text on screen: Universal Design Principles: 1. Equitable Use; 2. Flexibility in Use; 3. Simple and Intuitive; 4. Perceptible Information; 5. Tolerance for Error; 6. Low Physical Effort; 7. Size and Space for Approach and Use.}

The concept is an evolving design philosophy but has some basic principles:

  • Equitable Use focuses on providing equitable access for everyone in an integrated and dignified manner. It implies that the design is appealing to everyone and provides an equal level of safety for all users.
  • Flexibility in Use implies that the design of the house or product has been developed considering a wide range of individual preferences and abilities throughout the life cycle of the occupants.
  • Simple and Intuitive requires that the layout and design of the home and devices should be easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience or cognitive ability. Design elements should be simple and work intuitively.
  • Perceptible Information, whereby using a combination of different modes, whether visual, audible or tactile methods, will ensure that everyone is able to use the elements of the home safely and effectively.
  • Tolerance for Error, minimizing the potential for unintended results. This implies design considerations that include failsafe features and gives thought to how all users may use the space or product safely.
  • Low Physical Effort. This principle deals with limiting the strength, stamina and dexterity required to access spaces or use controls and products.
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use. This principle focuses on the amount of room needed to access space, equipment and controls. This includes designing for the appropriate size and space so that all family members and visitors can safely reach, see and operate all elements of the home.

The Accessible Housing by Design series applies these Universal Design principles to all the accessible housing designs and features discussed in the series.

{VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list. On the right of the screen is the image of laptop computer, with a screenshot showing a floor plan for a visitable two-story house.}

{Text on screen: House Design and Floor Plans. What suits your needs? Renovate or build new? Pre-designed or custom design? Visitable, adaptable or accessible?}

So where do you begin when you are thinking about incorporating accessibility into your home?

There are many things to consider when designing or redesigning your living space; in particular, the needs and preferences of the users, the available space and room location, whether you want to renovate or build new, and whether you use predesigned plans or a custom design.

{VISUAL: The screenshot expands to fill the right side of the screen with a close-up view of the visitable house floor plan.}

The House Design and Floor Plans publication will guide you through these considerations, illustrate floor plans for visitable, adaptable or fully accessible homes, and help you decide what will be appropriate to meet your needs.

{VISUAL: The bullet list and floor plan fade out, and the screen fades back to the drafting paper background. Two images appear of sample layouts for accessible U-Shaped and Galley-style Kitchens.}

{Text on screen: Other Design Examples from Accessible Housing by Design — Kitchens.}

To give you a feel for what Accessible Housing by Design can offer, lets take a look at Kitchens. Universal Design concepts are being incorporated into many aspects of kitchen design, including appliances, cabinets, lighting and flooring. Also gaining in popularity is the concept of “aging-in-place.”

{VISUAL: The layouts fade out, and are replaced by photographs of a pull-out kitchen shelf with a D-shaped handle, and a pantry that has swing-out doors and pull-out shelving.}

By including flexibility and adaptability into kitchen design, you can extend the life and increase the usability of your kitchen. Kitchen design is one element that can contribute to enabling families, couples and individuals to stay in their homes and neighbourhoods as they grow and age.

{VISUAL: The photographs fade out. The screen fades to a new bullet list, with a photograph of a man in a wheelchair cooking at a kitchen work surface that has an opening below it for extra knee space.}

{Text on screen: Accessible Housing by Design — Appliances. Don’t forget about Appliances: Easy to operate; Easy to read; Easy to install; Too heavy to handle; Automatic shut-off; Lock-out features; A burning hazard.}

And don’t forget about the appliances. Accessible Housing by Design — Appliances will help you understand the personal safety issues to consider when selecting an appliance, such as:

  • Is it easy to operate?
  • Are the controls easy to read?
  • Is it easy to install?
  • Is it too heavy to handle?
  • Is it equipped with a failsafe feature, such as an automatic shut-off?
  • Is it equipped with a lock-out feature to prevent turning it on inadvertently?
  • Does it pose a burning hazard?

{VISUAL: The bullet list and photograph fade out. The screen fades to a new bullet list, with the image of the blank computer screen.}

{Text on screen: Living Spaces — More Design Elements: Windows; Cabinets and Storage; Furniture; Lighting and Electrical Switches; Acoustics; Colour Considerations; Materials and Finishes.}

No matter what part of your home you are working on, you will want to understand accessible/universal design considerations for a variety of features and elements in your home, such as:

  • Windows — especially the opening and locking mechanisms;
  • Cabinets and Storage;
  • Furniture;

{VISUAL: A diagram appears on the computer that shows the amount of floor space and the optimal placement of light switches, outlets and thermostats needed to allow someone in a wheelchair to access and use them.}

  • Lighting and Other Electrical Considerations including types of switches, fixtures and lighting technology;
  • Acoustics;
  • Colour Considerations; and
  • Materials and Finishes.

{VISUAL: The bullet list and diagram fade out. A new bullet list fades in, and a screenshot from the “Materials and Finishes” page of the Accessible Housing by Design — Living Spaces online publication appears on the computer.}

{Text on screen: Living Spaces — More Design Elements: Slip-resistance; Resilience; Colour; Tactile Identification; Glare; Acoustic Quality; Ease of Maintenance.}

Accessible Housing by Design — Living Spaces provides detailed information about the types of products available and considerations for making a choice of which product suits your needs. For example, under “Materials and Finishes,” you will find a reference table with design considerations for characteristics such as:

  • Slip-resistance;
  • Resilience;
  • Colour;
  • Tactile Identification;
  • Glare;
  • Acoustic Quality; and
  • Ease of Maintenance.

{VISUAL: The screen fades to blank. A new bullet list on Home Automation fades in.}

{Text on screen: What is Home Automation? Systems and devices that can control elements in a home environment: Remote controls, motion sensors. Used to control: Lights; TV; Heating and cooling; Appliances; Doors; Windows and curtains.}

While accessibility is often about floor plans, layout and design of rooms and features in the home, technology can play a role in increasing convenience in the home for people with mobility challenges.

Devices originally designed for people with disabilities are found in every home. The remote control was originally developed to help people with limited mobility control their environment. Today, remote controls are used by everyone.

{VISUAL: The image of a hand holding a remote control appears beside the bullet list. The remote control is surrounded by a series of icons that demonstrate how features such as lighting, kitchen appliances, washing machines, heating and ventilation can all be controlled remotely.}

Home automation now being developed for the general consumer market provides even greater benefits to people with physical, sensory and mental disabilities, thereby allowing them to live more independently.

Home automation systems, or smart home technologies, are systems and devices that can control elements in a home environment.

{VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list, with a photograph of a young woman using a remote control to open a security shutter on a window.}

{Text on screen: Benefits of Home Automation: Convenience; Improved home security; Increased energy efficiency.}

Home automation systems have many applications that can increase convenience, personal and home security, and energy efficiency.

Computer systems can be programmed to operate your entire home lighting system, creating different lighting zones within a room or a selection of alternate ambient lighting scenarios.

Home security systems can be used to give your home a more lived-in look by randomly turning lights and devices such as TVs and stereos on and off.

Programmable thermostats in different rooms of your house can create different zones that can be heated or cooled when occupied.

For emergency situations, alarms can activate phones that call a pre-programmed number for assistance.

Accessible Housing by Design — Home Automation can help you to assess whether a home automation system meets your needs.

{VISUAL: The bullet list and photograph fade out. The screen fades to a new bullet list.}

{Text on screen: Benefits of Home Automation. Questions to ask yourself: Does it have an appropriate interface, switch or control that can be easily used? Is it simple and intuitive to use? Is there enough power to run it? Is there a minimal time delay between control operation and feedback? Is there some forgiveness for error? Will it save time, money or energy? Does the system reset to default settings?}

For example, here are some questions you will need to ask yourself:

  • Does it have an appropriate interface, switch or control that can be easily used?
  • Is it simple and intuitive to use?
  • Is there enough power to run it?
  • Is there a minimal time delay between control operation and feedback?
  • Is there some forgiveness for error?
  • Will it save time, money or energy?
  • Does the system reset to default settings?

Other considerations include practicality, ease of installation and cost.

{VISUAL: The bullet list fade outs, and the screen fades back to the drafting paper background. Images appear of a drafting pencil, a sketch of the sample layout for an accessible yard design, and a photograph of the front door and exterior entrance of a home.}

{Text on screen: Exterior Spaces — Design Considerations.}

One aspect of accessible design that may not be top of mind is the design of the outdoor spaces at your home. Accessible Housing by Design — Exterior Spaces can help you design outdoor spaces to allow flexibility and adaptability to maximize the enjoyable use of these areas.

{VISUAL: The photograph of the door fades out, and is replaced by a bullet list of exterior design principles.}

{Text on screen: Exterior Spaces — Design Considerations: Efficient design; Manoeuvering space; Minimal effort; Safety; Maintenance.}

Many of the same themes apply to outdoor design as to indoor design:

  • Efficient design.
  • Manoeuvering space.
  • Minimal effort.
  • Safety.
  • Maintenance.

Accessible Housing by Design — Exterior Spaces can help you determine the location of a deck, porch or gazebo, and help you plan through how these elements will co-exist with the home environment and the existing landscape and trees, and consider pathways and walkways that will be needed to reach each design element in the yard.

{VISUAL: The bullet list and sample layout fade out, and are replaced by a new bullet list.}

{Text on screen: Exterior Spaces — Design Considerations: How much space do you have? Are there natural features that can be highlighted or topographical constraints? Do you want an outside eating and cooking area? Does someone have a disability that will affect the choice of surface treatment? Is there a need for parking? Which areas are shaded and which are sunny? Does someone in your family have allergies? Is a play structure, sandbox or set of swings needed?}

Before you start planning your exterior space, the guide provides as series of questions to ask yourself, such as:

  • How much space do you have?
  • Are there natural features that can be highlighted or topographical constraints?
  • Do you want an outside eating and cooking area?
  • Does someone have a disability that will affect the choice of surface treatment?
  • Is there a need for parking?
  • Which areas are shaded and which are sunny?
  • Does someone in your family have allergies?
  • Is a play structure, sandbox or set of swings needed?

{VISUAL: The bullet list fades out, and the screen fades back to the drafting paper background. Photographs appear of an indoor stairway with a safety handrail, and a finger pushing an oversize button on an oven.}

{Text on screen: Universal Design.}

Universal house design recognizes that everyone who uses a house is different and comes with different abilities that change over time. Features include lever door handles that everyone can use, enhanced lighting levels to make it as easy as possible to see, stairways that feature handrails that are easy to grasp, and easy-to-use appliances. When a house design is accessible, it is designed to accommodate everyone, including people with disabilities. This can extend your ability to remain in your home and make your home more comfortable for others.

{VISUAL: The photographs fade out. A series of new photographs fade in, showing: a wheelchair-accessible step ramp; a step-in bathtub with accessible storage; a bathroom with D-shaped rails and accessible fixtures; and a bedroom with arrows indicating where a dividing wall could be added in the future.}

{Text on screen: FlexHousing™.}

FlexHousing™ designs adapt to changes in a family’s lifestyle with rooms that can change in size and function and adjustable fixtures to suit everyone’s needs. Living spaces are made accessible and functional for all family members no matter what their physical abilities or special requirements. FlexHouses™ are affordable, especially over time, since there will be no need for costly moving or renovation expenses.

{VISUAL: The photographs fade out. The screen fades to white. An illustration of a house with sketch-marks showing where future renovations could be made fades in, followed by a photograph of an elderly man in a wheelchair, an elderly woman with a cane and a young woman smiling for the camera.}

{Text on screen: CMHC Resources: cmhc.ca}

I encourage you to explore the various publications in the Accessible Housing by Design series on CMHC’s website. Our fact sheets, check lists and guides show you ways to adapt your home to meet your changing needs.

For more information, please visit our website at cmhc.ca

{VISUAL: The screen fades to white. The bilingual CMHC logo and “Home to Canadians” tagline appear on the screen.}

{Text on screen: The information in this publication is a result of current research and knowledge. It is not intended for the content to be relied upon as professional or expert advice or opinions. Readers should evaluate the information, materials and techniques cautiously for themselves and consult appropriate professional resources to see if the information, materials and techniques apply to them. The images and text are guides only. Project and site-specific factors (climate, cost, aesthetics) must also be considered.}

{VISUAL: The screen fades to white as the Canada Wordmark fades in. The Canada Wordmark fades out, and the icons for Flickr, Twitter and YouTube appear on the screen, along with the CMHC website address: cmhc.ca}

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