Idea Center and Universal Design E-World
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example of a visitable house

An Approach to Inclusive Housing

As the population ages and is challenged by greater number of physical disabilities, housing and community design practices will need to be reconsidered. Visitability is an approach to design that integrates basic accessibility features into newly built homes, including a stepless entrance, wider doorways and at least a half bathroom on the main floor. Visitability also promotes affordable, sustainable and inclusive design solutions. This initiative is founded in the belief that basic architectural access features in all new homes is a civil and human right that improves livability for all.

Visitability Research

Through a collaboration between the IDeA Center and Concrete Change, an organization founded by Eleanor Smith of Atlanta, GA (a leader in visitability advocacy), researchers explored the growing need for accessible housing in the United States and the recent emergence of visitability as an affordable and sustainable design strategy aimed at increasing the number of accessible single-family homes and neighborhoods. Project research examined:

•  the history and fundamental principles of visitability;
•  the visitability design features and requirements;
•  the number and diversity of visitability initiatives and programs at a national scale; and
•  the challenges and controversies currently surrounding the visitability movement.

Dissemination and Benefits of Visitability

The research team has disseminated its research findings through a variety of publications: Increasing Home Access: Designing for Visitability1 examines and evaluates the different types of visitability; Visitability: An Inclusive Design Approach for Housing provides a summary of the goals, benefits, and features of inclusive housing design; Visit-ability: an Approach to Universal Design in Housing, offers a complete overview of visitability requirements, the philosophy of the initiative, and resources available in the United States. Researchers just updated a list of current visitability initiatives that is available online at

1 Maisel, J., Smith, E., and Steinfeld, E. (2008). Increasing home access: Designing for Visitability. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Report.