Inclusive Home Design
I am a strong supporter of housing initiatives to help seniors and people with disabilities afford housing. The issue is not just about affordability, though. We need to make sure that we have houses and apartments that are structurally built to meet the needs of those who have mobility impairments.
It is estimated that 70 percent of Americans will experience a disability at some point in their life that makes stair climbing impossible, yet 95 percent of new single-family homes and townhouses built with federal assistance fail to include any features that make it possible for people with mobility impairments to live in or visit. I believe that we need to establish federal standards for accessibility features so that people with disabilities can find accessible housing and people can age in place knowing that they will not have to move if they develop mobility problems. It is far cheaper to build homes to be accessible than to have to renovate homes later on.
This is a serious issue and one that can be addressed through sensible legislation. I authored the Inclusive Home Design Act, to set the following accessibility requirements for homes built or financed with any federal assistance:
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
The requirements are not burdensome and add a minimal cost of construction. The average added cost per home for the required features run from about $100 (for homes built on a concrete slab) to about $600 (for homes with a basement or crawl space).
Legislation I've Introduced
Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act – The bill would expand the number of homes that are accessible for people with disabilities. People with mobility impairments have limited access to most homes because there are currently no federal standards for accessibility features in homes built with federal assistance.
More on Inclusive Home Design
WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Chair of the Housing, Community Development and Insurance Subcommittee, and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) recently sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting a report on the availability of affordable, accessible housing in the twenty-five largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Today, that request was approved by GAO with work set to begin in a few months.
“As we mark October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, it is important that we make a renewed commitment to ensuring that the American workplace is open and available to individuals with disabilities. We all benefit when workers with disabilities are able to contribute to our economy and participate fully in our communities.
WASHINGTON, DC (May 16, 2012) — Today, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and eight House colleagues introduced H.R. 5781, the Inclusive Home Design Act, to expand the number of homes that are accessible for people with disabilities. People with mobility impairments have limited access to most homes because there are currently no federal standards for accessibility features in homes built with federal assistance.