Tuesday, May 19, 2009


...and the impact it has on the disabled.

I learned just this morning that the Columbus (OH) City Council has recognized the week of May 18, 2009 as Visitability Awareness Week. Yes, this week. I wish they'd have told me sooner. :)

Visitability refers to the quality of a private dwelling that makes it suitable, or unsuitable, for visitation by someone with a disability.

A case in point: Another married couple, and dear friends of ours, currently occupy a home that is of a two-level older style, built long before anyone had even dreamt of the A.D.A. I have never visited their home, although they have been frequent guests in ours. The reason? Visitability. The main floor is "blocked" by steps, and no railings. Another major barrier for me is their sole restroom. It is located on the second floor, only reachable by another series of steep steps.

None of this is their fault, of course. We live where we live. In fact, our own home is no model of Visitability either. I've never visited the attic, or the basement (although my wife took pictures once so I would understand her when she described something about them that I needed to know.) I live on the main floor, where (thankfully) we also have a bedroom and a bath. As for house access, we still have steps, but at least one entrance will have to be ramp modified soon. As I age, it's becoming difficult to navigate them.

As you can imagine, this situation is not ideal for me... and I dare-say, for a growing number of us. Ultimately it becomes a quality of life issue, and can literally spell the difference between being able to "age-in-place" within our own homes, or be forced at some point to relocate into something like an assisted living facility. There's also an issue of freedom, and choice. How sad is it that as we age, or become disabled, we could become literal prisoners in our own homes, unable to visit others, or be visited in return? Socialization isn't just nice, it's necessary.

Frankly, there's not a lot we can do about current homes, or at least not those in our area of Ohio. Many were built around the time of World War II, or earlier, and the style then was based on whatever was cheap, fast and space efficient. Rooms were smaller, doorways were narrower, and the footprint was minimal. Some houses don't have yards. Many don't even have room for a garage. Homes can be modified, to a point, but there's only so much you can do, really. The rest we just have to live with.

Which brings us to the future. As the Boomers age, and the disabled become increasingly mobile, we need to start thinking a lot more about the kinds of homes we are building. Designing for Visitability just makes sense, when you think about it.

Visitability features rely on three basic tenets:

o       * An entrance that does not include steps or stairs but is accessible to a person with mobility impairments.

o       * Main floor doors and hallways that can accommodate a person in a wheelchair.

o       * An accessible bathroom with enough room to maneuver.

Doesn't seem a lot to ask, does it?

Currently, standards for new home construction are being revisited, and re-evaluated across the country. Now is the time to take action, and let our voices be heard. If you'd like to send a letter or email to your Ohio members of Congress on this issue, it's as easy as clicking on the following link, and filling out a short form:

I hope you'll consider joining us as we lobby for this important building code revision. Our children are growing up fast, and we can decide what kind of world they will live in as they too, eventually, age and grow old. Will they have Visitability? I sincerely hope so.


  1. That's not too much to ask. I hope many others join in to send the online message.

  2. Thanks Lisa,

    I agree... it doesn't seem a lot at all. In fact, even if I were not disabled, I'd probably want those modifications anyway. I mean, who WOULDN'T want a larger bathroom? LOL