LAWRENCE — Can Grandma, who uses a walker, still attend the family Thanksgiving dinner? Can the friend who was injured in military service and now uses a wheelchair join the party to watch the big game?
Produced by researchers at the Research & Training Center on Independent Living, "Making Homes Visitable: A Guide for Wheelchair Users and Hosts" provides information about how people can make their homes visitable by people with mobility limitations – and why it matters.
As John Tschida says in the foreword, “Humans are social creatures. We are hardwired to connect with one another, to gather and create shared experiences.”
But people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices are often excluded from social gatherings because of barriers to entering and navigating homes.
Dot Nary, the principal author, explains that home visitability does not involve the same accessibility standards that are required for public buildings by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“This is acceptable because visitability modifications are intended to enable visiting for a limited period versus more extensive modifications that would allow full use of the home,” she said. “The success of the visitability movement is largely attributed to the simplicity and achievability of three key features: an accessible entrance, accessible interior pathways and one usable bathroom.”
The resource offers tips on how hosts and potential guests who have mobility limitations can have productive conversations about what would be needed to make a visit happen and how to assess the visitability of a home. It offers practical solutions for improving visitability, addressing barriers such as steps to the entrance and doorways that are too narrow for most wheelchairs to pass through. These tips are categorized as temporary, moderate or permanent based on the relative difficulty, cost and/or permanence of the solution.
“While our ultimate goal is to have all new single-family homes built with visitable features, we want people to understand that they can address barriers in their current home,” Nary said. “The goal of a visit is to spend time together or share an event. Being flexible and seeking mutually agreeable solutions to access problems can help both parties enjoy the visit.”
The 32-page booklet is available to download.