April 1, 2003 -- In the past year hundreds of articles in the nation's news media have been devoted to the concept of "visitability." A decade ago, only a few disability rights advocates knew the concept. But with the aging of the U.S. population, it's clearly an idea whose time has come.
The idea, spearheaded by Atlanta disability activist Eleanor Smith, founder of Concrete Change (http://www.concretechange.org/), refers to basic access in all new homes -- so that they are "visitable" by people with mobility problems. A no-step entrance, doorways wide enough to get through and a bathroom big enough to get into and close the door -- these are visitability's three simple points. A national visitability bill -- the Inclusive Home Design Act -- is in Congress.
Of the news articles on the concept. one of the best ran in Newsday this past January. Read Lew Sichelman's Design For Living online at http://www.newsday.com/business/realestate/ny-respread3071161jan03.story Read an interview with Eleanor Smith (and more about the bill in Congress) from Ragged Edge.
Universal design concepts are at the heart of the visitability movement; design that works for everyone. The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University ( http://www.design.ncsu.edu:8120/cud/ ) offers a variety of resources including an excellent overview of the principles of universal design. It operates the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Universal Design and the Built Environment, funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Universal Design at the University of Buffalo, also NIDRR-funded, has a monthly online e-newsletter with links to current issues and news (http://www.ap.buffalo.edu/idea/e-newsletter/index.htm); this month's issue has an update on a visitability ordinance in Pittsburgh.
The list of internet resources devoted to universal design and visitability is growing rapidly; a number of consultants are offering information and assistance to homebuilders. One such site is Homes for Easy Living -- to see the number of resources go to http://www.google.com and type in "universal design" or "visitability."
Read our 12/04/01 and 12/18/01 E-letters about visitability.