Universal or inclusive design is the idea that products and buildings should be planned and built to be useful to as wide an audience as possible, regardless of their ability or age. It is an increasingly common consideration in home-building, and one reflected in recent changes to the Ontario Building Code that increase accessibility requirements for multi-unit residential buildings.
Passed two years ago, the regulations have broad implications for the shape of our communities in years to come. Seven percent of Canadians have a mobility-related disability, 1.6 million people in Ontario alone, and those numbers likely to increase dramatically as baby-boomers age. Well-designed housing, that takes the needs of a graying population into account, will allow homeowners to “age in place” rather than move in search of the supports and accommodations they need. It also created new housing options for younger people with disabilities, integrating them into their communities, and giving them greater access to employment and recreation.
In Ontario, new multi-unit residential buildings are now required to have principle entrances that are accessible to all. Public spaces, such as lobbies, swimming pools, and rooftop patios, must also be designed inclusively. Fifteen percent of all new units must incorporate basic accessibility features, such as wider doorways and barrier-free routes between rooms, and bathrooms large enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
While these updated to the provincial building code do not apply to house, the advantages to building or renovating with inclusive design in mind are the same on a smaller scale. Whether you wish to stay in your home well into your own later years, care for an aging relative, or make it easier for a disabled loved-one to visit you, assessing the accessibility of our home can be a powerful planning tool.
- Are your doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair?
- Would a curb-less shower or grab bars make your bathroom easier to maneuver?
- Could a seated person cook in your kitchen? If not, you might consider comfort-height counters, a single-lever faucet, a wall oven and separate stove top with no cabinets underneath, or a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer.
- How could a ramp be integrated into the design of your home’s exterior?
These can be challenging – and expensive – questions to answer, but research indicated that inclusive design saves money over the longer term, You may even quality for a tax credit to offset the cost renos.
Accessibility means something different for each individual. If you have specific needs or concerns in searching for a new home, please contact us. We would be happy to help you find a safe and accessible place for you and your family to call home for years to come.