RTC:Rural Rural Institute University of Montana

logo for Montana Disability & Health Program: Living well under the Big Sky

Visit-ability: Basic Access in Every New Home

Built for the Open Market


Building Today’s Homes for Montana’s Future
Drawings of visitable homes sited on sloped properties

Brochure pdf file   Flyer pdf file

Visitability means people with mobility limitations are not isolated by architecture. A visitable home is one designed for the open market, not specifically for people with disabilities, with three specific access features.

The essential access features of a Visitable home include:

1. One zero step entrance on an accessible route–at the front, back, side, or through the garage.

2. All main floor interior passage doors with 32 inches clear passage space.

3. A half or full main floor bathroom with basic maneuvering space.

From the Beginning: When planned from the beginning of the design and construction process, a zero-step entrance works on steep lots as well as flat lots. 

No matter the term…Constructing a zero-step entrance, wide interior doors and a usable bathroom in “regular” homes for the open market is an innovation whose time has come.

Building on Experience

• In 1989, an Atlanta affiliate of Habitat for Humanity began making every one of its new homes visitable. More than 800 visitable Atlanta Habitat houses have been built.

• In 1992, the Atlanta ordinance was passed. It was the first in the world to mandate a zero step entrance on certain private, single-family homes.

• In 1998, advocates in Austin, TX and other locals began replicating the Atlanta ordinance. There are now more than 3,000 visitable houses in Austin.

First ordinances mandating visitability in EVERY new house:

• 2002 –Pima County, AZ: More than 15,000 visitable houses.

• 2003 – Bolingbrook, IL: More than 3,600 visitable houses, all with basements.

• 2007– Tucson, AZ: Every new house beginning January 08.

Photos of attractive visitable homes, some large, some small

Why should basic access be built in virtually every new home?

1. Low Cost: When planned-in-advance, basic access typically costs from $100 for new homes on a concrete slab to $500 for homes with basements. Retrofitting an existing house is usually expensive, may be hard to coordinate during a health crisis, and often is awkward looking.

2. Aging in Place: Visitable homes allow a person to age in their home instead of an institution.

3. Convenience: Basic access benefits people with disabilities as well as non-disabled people. A step-free entrance and ample interior door widths are convenient for all.

Well-planned access in new homes is integrated into the design and landscape, and is an attractive asset.

Square Footage: Adding square footage to the home is not necessary as a solution— even in very small houses. In a minority of cases, a few inches of space need to be shaved from an adjacent room or a more open plan chosen. Most stock house plans showing narrow doors already have ample wall space for the builder simply to write in a wider door specification, without re-drawing plans.

Moisture Protection: Moisture protection for zero-step entrances in homes can be accomplished by applying normal waterproofing procedures. Just as for commercial buildings, the combination of a good-quality door seal, a sloping porch floor and an overhang above the door has proven to provide long-term, reliable moisture protection at residential zero-step entrances. Thousands of visitable homes throughout all climates have confirmed this in practice.

Bathrooms: If bathroom size does not permit a 5-foot turning circle, a 48” x 30” rectangle of open floor space adjacent to each fixture can provide maneuvering room. In a small half-bath, the door can be hinged to swing out to facilitate a wheelchair- or walker-user closing the door when inside the room, or a pocket door can be installed.

For more information on Visit-ability, please visit: Concrete Change

Return to top of page