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"Visitability" becoming more visible nationwide
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Dec. 4, 2001 -- "In what would be the first such rules in the nation, Santa Monica officials are considering a proposal to require that all privately built new homes and those undergoing major remodeling have a wheelchair ramp entry, wide interior hallways and at least one handicapped-accessible bathroom," says a story in Sunday's Los Angeles Times. The story, "Wheelchair Access as a Must for Residences," by Bob Pool, is online at

Although Bill Maher poked fun at the concept awhile back on "Politically Incorrect," "visitability," as it's called, has been picking up adherents nationwide. Several years ago, a "visitable" gingerbread house made the pages of the Wall Street Journal. The house, a creation of the Rochester-based Center for Disability Rights, can be seen online at

The idea is not a new concept. Since the early 1990s, the grassroots group Concrete Change has promoted the concept through its website at A number of cities, including Austin, TX and Urbana, IL, now have ordinances that mandate visitability features in single-family housing paid for with public money. Atlanta, the home of Concrete Change and the first city to pass a visitability ordinance, now has over 500 single family homes with vistability features (photo online at Santa Monica's law, though, would be the first to extend to all new housing. Farther north in California, San Mateo County also encourages visitability (see

L. A. Times reporter Bob Poole notes that before Santa Monica's ordinance will become reality, "a major obstacle must be overcome: negative public opinion from those who may fear that liberal Santa Monica is once again taking on a social crusade." Concrete Change members, who are familiar with the arguments, have posted a page of responses at

Athough there's no legal requirement, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development "encourages" visitability features in single-family housing built with federal dollars (

Temple University's Institute on Disabilities has information on visitability at

SUNY/Buffalo maintains a listserv on visitability (with a searchable archive) at

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