Accessible Housing — An Undeniable Trend
Accessible housing refers to the construction or modification (such as through renovation or home modification) of housing to enable independent living for persons with disabilities. Accessibility is achieved through architectural design, but also by integrating accessibility features such as modified furniture, shelves and cupboards, or even electronic devices in the home.
In Canada, Flexhousing is a concept that encourages homeowners to make renovations that modify their house over time to meet changing accessibility needs. The concept supports the goals of enabling "homeowners to occupy a dwelling for longer periods of time, perhaps over their entire lifetimes, while adapting to changing circumstances and meeting a wide range of needs"; Universal Housing in the United States and Lifetime Homes in the United Kingdom are similar concepts.
Great Britain applies the most widespread application of home access to date. In 1999, Parliament passed Section M, an amendment to residential building regulations requiring basic access in all new homes. In the United States, the 1988 Amendments to the Fair Housing Act added people with disabilities, as well as familial status, to the classes already protected by law from discrimination (race, color, gender, religion, creed, and country of origin). Among the protection for people with disabilities in the 1988 Amendments are seven construction requirements for all multifamily buildings of more than four units first occupied after March 13, 1991. These seven requirements are as follows:
An accessible building entrance on an accessible route,
Accessible common and public use areas,
Doors usable by a person in a wheelchair,
Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit,
Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations,
Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars, and
Usable kitchens and bathrooms.
In Malvern, the first fully-accessible luxury hotel has been built up because proposals for the “vast accessibility improvements” are now going forward to a public consultation. The hotel is working in partnership with design business, One Creative Environments Ltd., which has created the designs for the multi-million pound regeneration project.
One Creative Environments, which also provides master planning, architecture and engineering services, will deliver the project whilst ensuring that all aspects of the design are fully accessible to meet the needs of the future visitors of the hotel.
The proposed plans for the Elms have already been assessed by national disability charity Revitalise. Revitalise is keen to provide a high-quality hotel experience to its guests and could potentially be in the frame as a future operator.
The group is asking disabled travelers to report back on the hoist facilities they find, or do not find at their accommodation, in order to draw up a picture of the situation so that a solution can be discussed. Trailblazers estimates that there are currently just 20 hotels in the UK with a ceiling hoist with eight situated in London.
The hotel sector is being encouraged by campaigners to invest in access and mobility solutions which it is claimed can help them to cash in on the purple pound, which until now has largely been ignored by many operators.