Covering the Basics: Designing Accessible and Adaptable Dwelling Units

Dominic Esposito, P.Eng

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Dec 13, 2023

A lack of appropriate accessible housing is becoming an increasingly urgent issue in Canada, with many people with disabilities living in homes that limit their independence. The 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability estimated that, of the 55.8% of Canadians with physical disabilities, 13% were unable to obtain the accessibility features that they needed in their homes.

Accessible and adaptable housing enables people of all abilities to thrive in their communities. Adaptable design involves elements that can be conveniently adjusted to adapt a unit to the occupant’s needs, while accessible housing meets the needs of people with disabilities and contains most features essential for converting it into an adaptable dwelling without costly renovations, disruptions or structural changes.

A crucial element to providing accessible and adaptable units is designing and constructing the permanent structural elements as accessible – such as ramped access, wide entrances and accessible windows – so they can be adapted at any time. This is far less expensive and disruptive than implementing these elements later.

Ultimately, striking a balance between the supply and demand for accessible housing in Canada requires determining the correct and expected increase of adaptable and accessible housing as well as the potential costs. Knowing this information can help with optimizing accessibility requirements, drafting code provisions and reducing the burden on national resources.

Read more about this in the December 2023 issue of Construction Canada, where Jensen Hughes’ Dominic Esposito, P.Eng., teams up with Avianash Gupta, P.Eng., to explore the factors involved with increasing accessible and adaptable single-family dwelling units (SFDUs) and multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) across Canada.