Accessible Housing for Everyone
Accessible Housing for Everyone

Categories: Housing

A photo of Allan CheckowayBy Guest Blogger Allan Checkoway, Author and Principal of Disability Services Group, Employee Benefit Advisors

If you’re in the process of buying your very first home and you don’t have any physical limitations, why bother searching for an accessible home that features universal design? There’s actually no reason not to. But first, let’s consider your likelihood of ever needing an accessible home.

The day we’re born, every one of us has the opportunity to live to age 85 or longer. The lifestyles we create for ourselves (e.g., abusing alcohol, smoking, being overweight or exercising diligently and eating healthy meals) often contribute to how long we remain alive on this planet. The Council for Disability Awareness reports that a working age American will experience a long-term disability every seven seconds! Most are ill prepared when it happens. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 54 million of our fellow Americans are classified as “disabled.” That represents a startling 12 percent of the total population, and many of them are not living in accessible homes.

First and foremost, no one expects to become “disabled.” For the vast majority of Americans, most disabilities are a complete surprise. An automobile accident, your first heart attack, a sudden stroke – these instances almost always catch us off guard. We are all well aware that we never know what tomorrow will bring. This is especially true as we pass through our different stages of life; our needs and physical capabilities are sure to change.

When your spouse and you are living in the same home at the retired age of 75, you’ll be glad you bought a universal design home when you were young and healthy. You won’t be as restricted when it’s time to sell your home. Moreover, it’s less expensive to adapt a home today than remodeling decades from now. Although there aren’t reliable statistics on the value of homes with universal design features, it is safe to assume that they can only increase your home’s value in comparison to those with traditional design features.

We tend to make plans for today based on our married “mindset.” An important factor for couples to consider today is to imagine life without your partner. One of you won’t always be here, so what then?

Consider the following: America’s senior citizens are the most likely generation to need accessible housing features. Moreover, men and women over the age of 85 are the fastest growing segment of the population. Homes today are still not being designed for an entire lifetime.

Interestingly enough, I did a Google search for “universal design” and “accessible housing” and found an extremely limited amount of up-to-date, reliable information. Since our senior population faces the greatest likelihood of frailty and being medically compromised while living on fixed incomes, they’re also the most vulnerable financially.  Having a disability necessitates the need for immediate access to reliable, current and well-researched information on housing accessibility. In the midst of a health crisis is not the best time to be making important decisions about the accessibility of your home.

Since America’s seniors tend to be the least computer literate segment of our population, the “bottom line” is that they need reliable, accessible housing information that is easy to find. They need it quickly, and it absolutely must be trustworthy. If you’re not computer savvy, your local librarians can be enormously helpful.

If you’re reading about universal design for the very first time, we’ll keep it simple. Sound universal design principals start with:

  • “Barrier-free” rooms that can easily accommodate walkers or the turning radius of wheelchairs. Doorways and hallways should be at least 36 to 42 inches wide, so that appliances and furniture can be moved with ease.
  • Step-free entrances.  There should be at least one entrance to your home (e.g., front, back or garage door) that is step-free for a wheelchair.
  • Single floor living, meaning your home is on one level like a ranch style home.  
  • Appropriate” lighting in all livable areas, since older eyes tend to have difficulty adjusting from light to dark areas.
  • Physical support accommodations, such as grab bars, secure hand rails, etc.
  • “Safe” design. More than 80 percent of deaths from falls happen amongst older adults with two-thirds estimated to be preventable!
  • Modern design of household appliances, such as sink faucets, oven controls, lighting controls, etc.
  • Adjusting heights to minimize bending, lifting, kneeling, etc. in frequently used spaces.

Lastly, there’s no “one size fits all” since designing for the impact of a multitude of specific health conditions varies greatly. Restricted mobility, limitations from frailty, vision loss, etc., all require different adaptations.

Universal design makes your home more desirable for everyone – regardless of age or ability today or 40 years from now. Very simply, you’ll be able to “age in place.” Regardless of whether you have a disability or not, young or elderly, accessible housing is for everyone.

Allan Checkoway is the author of Your Guide to Lifestyle Changes for Seniors & Individuals with Special Needs which will be available in May 2014. Those interested can subscribe to his Disability & Long Term Care Advisory newsletter at

27 Responses to Accessible Housing for Everyone

  1. Marcus b. says:

    I have been getting Ssi for over 12 years and I am tired of renting I need some help I have been renting to long and I want to oun my oun home I pray that you poeple can help me plz..

  2. Diane E. says:

    I have recently became disabled and only get 800.00 a month and need help with paying my rent and bills , this money well not help me at all, I love the house I live in an do not want to move, can I stay in it and have some government assistance help pay my rent

  3. Jessica B says:

    I’ve got a mom who is already old and we are looking for a Accessible Housing for everyone which we can live in order.

  4. madho p. s. says:

    filed an application for section 8 since 2004. had an appointment in 2007.
    never heard from them since then.

  5. craig m. says:

    I am on a waiting list for housing in lynn ma. all I see is people get section 8 and voucher for houseing. when I ask them for help they say there is no funding and my name is on a waiting list its not fair being homeless.

  6. sean p. says:

    if i want to get my own home is there a program that will help me financially get it?? is there something i can do to get a home?? all i get now is SSI and i am in a bad neighborhood i need to get my own home in another part of town.will you please tell me if i can get help to get my own home

  7. Steven R. T. says:

    I am on full disability after injuring my back at work. I had three disc fused i a operation. Still in much pain i now have a surgery scheduled in march to put rods, screws, and pins in my back. I hope to return to work several months after surgery. i currently rent a room. I pay $600/month plus all utilities. I am behind on rent and bills as my disability payment is not enough to cover my expenses. i have looked everywhere for a year now and cannot find low income housing in upstate new York. Just wondering if anyone has ideas. What am i missing.
    Thanks much,
    Steven R. T.

    • lisa m. says:

      have you looked into Burbank housing? im in California, there are vouchers and rental assisted programs. there hard to find, but keep looking. im being kicked out of a multifamily rent subsidized apartment complex, the other young tenants, don’t realize what its like to have a disability that restricts or wont allow you to go to work, they take these programs fro granted, they have been harassing me and destroying my property for 2 years now, so, if ,,,you do find a low income aprtmt, keep to yourself, there are so many bad managers, they run these places terrible unprofessionaly, and hud is not investigating it correctly, the biggest cases in court are for disability discrimination, its a terrible ting to have a bad neighbor landlord, , the money is nice, but if your home isn’t safe and your live in fear., it will destoy your will to live. find a place to make your feel good, buying a home is where my happy thought is, if i make it outa here in one piece. i used to like my lil home. i should have saved every penny , hold the good landlords close to you, and praise them publicy, try the city and county human resoursec , and hud web page,
      god luck,

      lisa Petaluma ca

  8. Morgan says:

    I have a few questions and hope I can get atleast a few of them answered with all of everyone’s info…I have a 69 year old mother who has gone down hill physically and mentally within just a few months and I am her personal caregiver and get paid through the state to take care of her but with the new issues she has been placed in a facility for dementia and from what I have seen of the place I need to find another solution either a different place or what I’m really thinking on trying is to see if there is any way we can live together…we live in the same complex and she’s on state housing but I feel it would be better for us to live together and have a nurse be there at night but don’t know if any kind of programs exist. I am the baby of 5 and the only one who has ever taken care of her even before I was paid through the state and the phone calls from her saying all she wants to do is come home breaks my heart cause we dont live together and I have 2 kids so logically if we all lived together and like I mentioned have a nurse stay through the night would be ideal right? Im sorry to keep going on but I need help in any way I can, I’m going to contact our case worker as well to get any info but have never posted on a site like this and hope even the littlest bit of info can help

    • Laura says:

      Try your local Aging Agencies… they would be able to tell you if your state has programs that can help you. There was some talk about doing exactly what you are talking about more easily with the new affordable care act. Depending on what your state decided about what options they would take, there should be a program to use medicaid or medicare dollars to keep your mom at home. Good Luck!

  9. Gail K. says:

    My husband of 25 years is still waiting for a disability benefits claim filed over 5 years ago to be approved. A reconsideration decision has resulted in a decision that he is entitled to disability benefits as of july 2008, no payments or info other than that. We have a 15 year old daughter and have been experiencing homelessness since his health has steadily gotten worse. spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, vaso vega nerve disorder, graves disease, renal cholic and chronic kidney stones including the 12 lithotrypsy procedures are among the disorders he suffers.Black mold contamination and exsposures we lived in our last rental was so toxic our daughter age 14 experienced almost complete hair loss and personality changes making her paranoid and withdrawn from life. We need housing help in the most desperate way. California is a very difficult state to obtain genuine help with housing. Stanislaus county makes it even more difficult due to the embezzlement problems with agencies in charge of housing grant monies. all of us are at the end of our abilities to continue and struggle through this any longer and again. 4th time. is there any assistance?

  10. Penny M. T. says:

    I Am Married And My Soouse InLow Income As Well.Im On Social Security Permanaent Disability For A Mental Illness.We Live In L.A. County Pasadena CA And Have An Apartment Behind A Main House On Private Property.The Owner/ Landlord Accepts Housing.Presently We Pay $1200/ Month Rent.With All The Supports I Need In Order To Stay Stable And Work Part Time As Well Undrr Ticket To work Program For Which I Cannot Tolerate Full Time Without Exacerbations Of Symptoms Rendering me inCapable And If I Cannot Work Any Longer We Need To Get Housing Help And Permantly ASAP.I Understand The Waiting Lists Are Closed And This Is An Immediate Si
    Need.If The Landlord Accepts Housing And Has Agreed The Same For Us Are There Any Programs To assist Us In Keeping Our Home Or Prevent Homelessness And Stay In Our Rental Home Or Can The Process Be Expedited Based On This Urgent Need.We Have Been In Our aapartment Here For Three Yeaes and Need To stay Housed Here.Where Can Look Or Who To Talk to Inorder To Perhaps Expedite Or Saty Housed Heee And Not Suffer Being On The Street.We Have Ni relatives Or supports Other Than That In Our Community and They At Present Have No Such Programs And How Can They Work with Us Otherwise.Thank You.Being Evicted Would Harm Me And My Mental State Would Be And Is Being Compromised Already If We Cannot Avoid Any Futher Undue Consequences.
    P. T.

  11. AMANDO M. says:

    AMANDO; NOBODY WANTS TO BECOME DISABLED TO SUFFERED LOTS OF DIFFICULTIES IN LIFE EXISTENCE/ Privious years 1999 I became disabled due to mild stroke /with a Brain damage due to artery blood clot/slurred speech/paralyze on my right side of my body/can’t maintain my stability henceforth up to 2014/RIGHTNOW me and my wife share a space room with my Daughter apartment with ( 8 ) eight persons in the apartment with (1 ) one bathroom Now I file an application request from USA GOV. TEAM SO MANY TIMES ONLINE/nothing in return up to present !! /me and my wife both u.s citizen counted population of United States of America / where we’ll to seek financial aid aside from USA WE NEED A PRIVATE OR PUBLIC SHELTER TO CALL OF OUR OWN!! We remain seeking the right person to provide help

    • lisa m. says:

      i am in Petaluma ca ive been injurd in my brain as well, i have lived here in a studio for 4 years. my neighbors are young and not inspired to do anything but kick it all day and harass the pretty girls, they rome around after payday at night and breakinto the homes and take the money, they think its funny for some reason, theres a generation of thiefs and evil ppl out there. they don’t realize the true value of rental assiatance. i have tried to fight tem now and they have shatterd my windshield of my car, broken my spirit, gatherd in a crowd, led by the landlord, who is making up the rules as he goes, they are all getting a power trip out of watching me in pain, i have been kicked out and have 30 days to move, my in home support worker is harassed so much he cant come on the property with out expecting a fight or the police called, and hes doing nothing wrong. i no, its nice to have money,,, but until the ppl in law, attorney, police, advocates for disabiltes really help us, stay where your safe. im in fear every day, and i cat nap at night. i have no attorney and cant find one nor afford one. my treatment is so bad, ppl cant believe its happening, but it is,, be careful,,, look in all the city and county human resources, housing programs,, theres vouchers out there, and grants,,, call as many as you can and rite it all down, don’t give up, find a safe happy home,,, good luck to you,

      lisa Malone pet ca

    • Yugyung says:

      I don’t agree with much of his argument I’m just poitsng it so others can read it. BTW, the argument I would add is that most of the deficit reduction is merely government pushing spending off onto the private sector. Technically that is deficit reduction, but what we really need is cost reduction. Burdening the private sector will merely make us all poorer and make the US less competitive. But hey, what’s it matter? All we really wanted was a healthcare bill passed. It didn’t matter what it provided! ;-) Rate this comment: 0 0

  12. Donna M. M. says:

    I am receiving S.S.D. (permanment) I receive a low amount of income. I am looking for housing in Union, middlesex, and even monmouth county. If there is any advice or reference into housing for a female, 50 yrs. old. high rise apt. will do, as long as there is an elevator. it would be sufficient. Thankyou for any help you give is greatly appreciate.

  13. Cindy says:

    Well I have been waiting since 2002 now I am always falling. I am 45yr old female does that leave me out because I am not a senior citizen. At 45 I have fibromtalgia, osteoporosis, osteoarthiritis,degenerative joint disease degenerative disc disease…….I just want to know how much longer I have to live with my xxx????????????????? I am already totally dehumanized-anyone else want to take a shot at me? 2002////2014!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THAT IS 12 VERY LONG YEARS. CINDY I EVEN WROUGHT TO CORZINE, YOU COULD TELL HE NEVER READ IT SOMEONE PASSED IT ON WITH OF SWEETIE TRY HUD……. I HADE NOT THOUGHT OF THAT

  14. Martin R. says:

    I live in Public housing in Colorado and when housing authority decided to change grass and dirt to rocks and shrubs they knew I was disabled and made my driveway double wide and made the twelve inch one step into the home a concrete ramp molded into the driveway to have accessible but my wheelchair still won’t access the bathroom or kitchen and I still don’t have handles for access to the tub which is hard at times. Then to top it all off I have seven children and two adults in a four bedroom house. I wish that they had these units made better for people with disabilities and more than 6 children in which case I fall into this category. So with my disabilities it is a disability having more than 6 children in a four bedroom home.

  15. patrice L G. says:

    I live in California. Housing is very expensive here. I pay 1,375.00. For a small one bedroom apt. I was excepted for housing 2 times now. I time I finally got excepted at a place. He wouldnt come down on the rent so housing gave me two days to find another place. This was about 5 years ago. People didnt care if I was disabiled. In fact they were leary about renting to me since I wasnt employed. Now I cant get on any list to get any help. They only have opening to housing every 5 to 7 years in san mateo county, california. Last year I got breast cancer. And have really been having a hard time paying this high rent plus other living expenses. My boyfriend also got posstate cancer last year also. We would love to get a place together. We are 57 and 63 and can not afford to buy a house together. We would love to get our own home. To even rent together. We have a dog and a bird. And no one will help us in california. Unless you get picked from the housing list which are closed now. If you could please help us get a place. It would have to be a we could have our animals. We are both on permanent disablily.Together we would have more income to get a place. We have been together for 25 years. But havevto live apart. We cant afford to live with this hugh rent.

  16. jayme m b. says:

    I”d like to get a response from my application on affortable housing ,I am on S.S.D -in need of assistance in this matter

  17. Michelle E. says:

    We own our home but since I became disabled five years ago, my husband works hard every day , we are raising a child that we have had for 12 years and because he is not blood related we can’t get help from the State of Tennessee, Our home the floors are falling in and the roof leaks, we have tried to get a bank loan because the house is paid off but since my disability we have had lots of bills, today we live in a county that forces you to pay a garbage bill because of everything else we got behind and was sued by Carroll County, I am more worried about a roof and floors in our home that the garbage bill…I have trouble walking I fall a lot. I need the house fixed for my disabled but not one time has the county helped us. I have applied for HUD help and didn’t get it so what else is there for us to do!!!PLEASE HELP FIND THE ANSWER

  18. EVA E C. says:

    How do I qualify for my first time to buy a home I am Disabled with a speech problem and a nerve problem please help me

  19. Roger G. says:

    I noticed the comment about the couple interested in accessible housing. They might consider looking at and also and look into a CAPS certified builder or remodeler.

  20. Cheryl M. says:

    My adult son and I are both permanently disabled. With a licensed contractor, we began a home modification project at our home in Massachusetts. Despite receiving the contractor’s name from the state funding agency, I find myself on my own to try to have the shoddy workmanship that was partially done and actually made the home Less liveable and less accessable corrected. Is there an entity that can advise and/or help remediate this problem?

  21. Anita M. says:

    My husband and I will be married for 34 years this coming August/14. We have never purchase a home of our own cause we couldn’t afford it but would like Accessible Housing, to age in place since now we are in our fifties with Type II Diabetes. Also, the house we now rent is an old two-story wood frame white house and need renovations badly but the landlord states she can’t afford for this to happen and it’s getting very expensive to live in this house. So, my husband and I are looking at other options. Is there a housing program that can help us build a house on our small land?

    • Christine D. says:

      I am disable with lupus fibromtaigia I am homeless and stay with a freind for the moment I need a place of my own I am on SSA disably and can not buy a home. I need assistance with houseing! Ilive in chattanooga tn i have apply for section 8 and there is a long waiting list I cannot stay with freind forever i dont smoke or drink and do not need to be around smokers i have sinus problems i dont know of any other gov. assistance that can help. please repiy soon I would gladly appreciate it.

  22. Joyce K. says:

    I have disabiites and was a federal work for 27 years. Instead giving an accomodation. I had fallen in work and was given worker comp. I then proceeded to get a new knee