Access Living applauds introduction of Inclusive Home Design Act

Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago applauds the introduction of new federal legislation called the Inclusive Home Design Act (IHDA). The new legislation, introduced on March 10 by U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, will dramatically increase the number of homes accessible to people with disabilities.

The Inclusive Home Design Act aims to increase the number of homes accessible to people with disabilities by applying visitability standards. The principle of visitability seeks to create homes that are affordable and sustainable, and utilize a design approach that integrates accessibility features into newly-built homes.

The legislation intends to reverse a national trend that locks people with disabilities out of the housing market. Currently, 95 percent of new single-family homes and townhouses built with federal assistance fail to incorporate accessibility features, making it impossible for many people with disabilities to live in or visit the homes. “Whether you have a disability or you don’t have a disability, everyone needs and everyone has a right to housing,” said Beto Barrera, Access Living’s Housing Team Leader. “Because we continue to build inaccessible housing in this country, housing options for people with disabilities are severely limited.”

The Inclusive Home Design Act would require that all newly-built single-family homes and townhouses receiving federal funds meet four specific standards:

• Include at least one accessible ("zero step") entrance
into the home

• Ensure all doorways on the main floor have a minimum of
32 inches of clear passage space

• Build at least one wheelchair accessible bathroom on the
main floor

• Place electrical and climate controls (such as light
switches and thermostats) at heights reachable from a
wheelchair

“We applaud the Schakowsky for building support around, and introducing the Inclusive Home Design Act,” Barrera went on. “With this new legislation, the housing market for people with disabilities will open up dramatically. Not only will we recognize the right of people with disabilities to pursue housing opportunities on a more level playing field, we will save thousands of dollars in renovation and retrofitting costs.”

The legislation applies only to new construction. The average added cost per home for the required features runs from $98 to $573. Adding accessible features after construction often costs several thousand dollars.