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What is Visitability?

eggebaeken house

Visitability is an affordable, sustainable and inclusive design approach for integrating basic accessibility features into all newly built homes and housing.

Visitability is based on the conviction that inclusion of basic architectural access features in all new homes is a civil and human right and improves livability for all. This project is a collaboration between the IDeA Center and Concrete Change.

Founded by Eleanor Smith of Atlanta, GA, Concrete Change has been a leader in advocating for and otherwise promoting visitability for many years.

Publications that relate to this project

Visitability: An Inclusive Design Approach for Housing provides a summary of the goals, benefits, and features of inclusive housing design. It previews a 2010 book entitled Inclusive Housing: A Pattern Book. Excerpts from the book along with an annotated version of the new ICC/ANSI A117.1 Type C visitability standards will give you a better understanding of what visitability is and why it is important to housing design.

Click Here to Download the Full Report

Increasing Home Access: Designing for Visitability examines the different types of visitability initiatives and evaluates their potential for improving the prospects for aging independently in one's home and community.

This In Brief was co-authored by Jordana Maisel, Eleanor Smith and Edward Steinfeld and was published in August 2008 by the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Click Here to Download the Full Report

Visit-ability: an Approach to Universal Design in Housing, is a 48-page resource offering a complete overview of visitability requirements, the philosophy of the initiative, and resources in United States. The book contains "best practice" case studies highlighting successful implementation of specific visitability projects in several different communities nationwide.

This booklet was compiled and developed as a publication of the RERC. on Universal Design at Buffalo, with the assistance of Habitat for Humanity chapters in both Buffalo, N.Y. and Rochester, N.Y. The grass-roots advocacy group Concrete Change in Atlanta, Georgia provided valuable assistance, and funding was provided through the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (N.I.D.R.R.).

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Visitability as an Approach to Inclusive Housing Design and Community Development: A Look at its Emergence, Growth, and Challenges

As the population ages and faces a greater number of physical disabilities, housing and community design must be re-examined. This research explores 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. Both a qualitative and quantitative methods approach was utilized to study the evolution of accessible housing policy in the United States, the history and fundamental principles of visitability, and the number and diversity of visitability initiatives and programs. The research explores existing theories on innovation diffusion to help understand trends in the visitability movement. The research also examines the challenges and controversies currently surrounding the visitability movement and potentially threatening its future success.

Click here to download PDF

Click here to download MS Word version

Frequently Requested Documents that Relate to this Project (last updated 2014)

Existing State Visitability Laws (HTML)

Existing State Visitability Laws (Microsoft Excel)

Existing Local Visitability Laws (HTML)

Existing Local Visitability Laws (Microsoft Excel)


AARP Public Policy Institute supported the updating of these documents.

License for use: The above documents may be used for presentation or publication, provided that no significant changes to the data are made, and that the following line accompanies each instance of presentation or publication:

© 2014 Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA) Used with permission.

For additional information about these documents, please contact: Jordana Maisel.

Visitability Listserv

A listserv is maintained for dicussions and opinions relating the Visitability Initiative project. A link below is provided if you would like to be added to the listserv.

Visitability Listserv

From 1999-2004, the visitability Initative was funded by the United States Department of Education through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, through Rehabilation Engineering Research Center on Universal Design at Buffalo

No endorsement should be assumed by N.I.D.R.R. or the United States Government for the content contained on this website.

Project Director: Jordana Maisel

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Design Resources

cold weather lab "Design Resources" are a series of short articles intended to provide designers with evidence-based information to address issues currently not covered in accessibility standards and provide suggestions for equivalent facilitation to accessibility standards where appropriate.
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Libby and the Cape of Visitability by Eleanor Smith

Libby and the cape of Visitability coverLibby, Aria and Benjamin have been best friends since they were babies.   Now Aria has moved to a new house.   Libby, who uses a wheelchair, doesn’t get invited to Aria’s birthday party because the house has barriers.     Hurt feelings follow…    Then the kids meet Everett, an adult wheelchair athlete, who tells them how the disability rights movement gained successes through years of public demonstrations and pressing for laws.    Everett shows them a photo from the 70’s showing people with disabilities blocking inaccessible buses.   The kids are inspired to create their own version of public action to achieve the goal of a step-free entrance and wide bathroom doors in every new house.     Learn how the kids get on the front page of their hometown paper, as their method gets them in trouble -– and how they achieve a sweet victory.

""Libby and the Cape of Visitability"" is the diary of Libby, a KWD (Kid with Disability). Written for children ages 8-13, this book raises awareness of the exclusion created when houses are not built with simple features that allow mobility-impaired people to visit or live in them.   For those grownups (teachers, parents and others) who engage in meaningful dialogue with children, this book provides not only a captivating story and relatable characters, but a Reader's Guide with discussion questions and resources as well.

Written by Eleanor Smith, a well known civil rights worker, and Nadeen Green, a teacher, writer and blogger on the topic of fair housing,

"Libby and the Cape of Visitability" is an e-book available for Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader, iPad, etc. For those  without e-readers the book can also be loaded onto a computer as a PDF.

Click here to find out how to purchase the book