Schakowsky Introduces Legislation To Ensure New Homes Meet Accessibility Standards

July 27, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, reintroduced the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act. This bill would make more new homes accessible for people with disabilities, seniors, and veterans. The legislation would require all newly-built single-family homes and townhouses receiving federal funds to meet several accessibility standards.

“I am proud to mark the 31st anniversary of the ADA by introducing the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act. The many remaining barriers faced every day by people with disabilities, seniors, and veterans should not extend to their homes,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “New single-family homes and townhouses built with federal dollars should be open to all, and this legislation would take steps to guarantee just that. Ensuring that new homes come equipped with zero-step entrances, doorways wide enough for wheelchairs, accessible bathrooms, and reachable light switches and thermostats will go a long way in making sure that seniors can age in place and that people with disabilities and veterans don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to make their homes livable or be forced into nursing homes. Building visitability features into new homes costs next to nothing and pays enormous dividends in personal inclusion, freedom, health, and housing choice. It is time to build on the promise of the ADA.”

The Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act of 2021 is supported by National ADAPT, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Association of Interior Designers, Autism Society, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Independence First, National Council on Independent Living, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and The Arc of the United States.

Eleanor Smith, founder of Visitability, stated, “Most people want to live in their own homes, not institutions—yet most new houses duplicate the very architectural barriers that eject people if they develop a mobility impairment. Rep. Schakowsky’s bill connects the built reality to the need reality.”

“For over 30 years, ADAPT has fought to end the institutional bias in long term services and for disabled people’s rights to live in their own homes and communities. One of the biggest barriers to achieving this goal has been lack of affordable, accessible, integrated housing,” said Rhoda Gibson & Mike Oxford,  of National ADAPT. “It is fitting that the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act is being introduced by our champion, Rep. Jan Schakowsky following the birthday of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ‘shameful walls of exclusion’, to quote President Bush when he signed the ADA, will never ‘come tumbling down’ and communities will never be inclusive until changes occur in house design. It is time to make inclusive home design also known as ‘visitability’ the law of the land.  It is past time to start designing housing with one zero-step entrance and a usable bathroom so we can all age in place.”

Text of the legislation is available HERE.