Wednesday, April 08, 2015

VisitAbility: Why not?

I've been having trouble figuring out why the housing industry and landlords aren't embracing VisitAbility for their new dwellings.  Some of the current myths are that it's expensive, ugly/institutional, too difficult to accomplish, that there will be snow or rain penetration, or that there isn't any demand for it.  All of these myths have been proven to be false by the many research documents (both domestic and international) that have studied these concerns.  I think that indifference toward designing dwellings for everyone is the main reason...why change what's been working incredibly well for builders and landlords for decades?

Here are some reasons to consider VisitAbility:

1) The most obvious for me is the ability to sell or rent your dwellings to 100% of the population.  That's just good business sense, especially when the economy slows down and there's surplus inventory.  Landlords are often concerned about vacancy rates yet VisitAbility would decrease the number of vacant units seeing as anyone could live there.

2) VisitAbility excludes no one from visiting or living in these dwellings; everyone is welcome.  With 9.6 million baby boomers in Canada, the need for VisitAbility will only increase as they become seniors (On average, there are no less than 1,100 baby boomers that become seniors every day in Canada...that's enough to fill two NHL rinks every month.  Please don't tell me that there isn't a need for homes that are designed for all stages of our lives).

3) Young families also benefit from these features because of strollers, wagons and other "baby gear".

4) Canada is spending billions of dollars per year on medical care because seniors have fallen in their homes, and stairs are a significant contributing factor to these falls and injuries.  Some seniors cannot return to their homes after these falls (due to architectural barriers in the homes, or due to the severity of their injuries) and must be prematurely admitted into chronic care and nursing homes. This has a significant financial impact on our social safety net, in addition to the psychological/emotional impact to the individual involved, and their families.

5) Human rights legislation has primacy over all others in Canada so a lack of barrier-free design will inevitably become grounds for discrimination complaints to commissions/tribunals.  Whether it be the Canadian human rights, or those found in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations), the requirement to stop creating new barriers, and to remove existing ones, will inevitably strain our already over-burdened legal system with these complaints.  Putting an end to discrimination on the grounds of disability isn't only a human right but it's simply the right thing to do.

6) The ability to remain in our current homes and neighbourhoods for our entire lives has a sustainability benefit when we speak of our environmental concerns, let alone an emotional benefit that is rather significant.

7) And finally, it decreases the number of work related injuries for moving and delivery company employees, decreases response times for emergency services during critical calls, and makes a home much more practical to live in.

VisitAbility simply requires:

A) One no-step entrance (preferably with landscape sloping, not ramping, to guarantee a stronger resale value).

B) Wider doors and hallways.

C) At least a powder room on that level that can be accessed by someone needing a mobility device.

It's very simple to implement during the design stage of a home, it's cost-effective, and has very clear benefits for all, so why is it such a burden for builders and landlords to even consider it?  We have many lessons to learn from nations that have already removed these barriers in new homes, such as the United Kingdom.

By the way, the Province of Ontario now requires VisitAbility in 15% of units for buildings taller than three storeys or with a building area greater than it's already started.   It would be wise to consider becoming a leader in this next trend in new housing by acting on it now.


Please watch this brief video entitled "What Are VisitAble Homes?" at:

You may also wish to visit for further information.