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Bespoke Norfolk Group

Designing Accessible Homes To Make Home Life Comfortable For Everyone

When we talk about making homes accessible, we’re striving to ensure that everyone, however capable, can enjoy an easy and comfortable life at home, and can get by completing day-to-day tasks at home with confidence. 

Opening this blog, you may already have a good understanding of how to make a home more accessible, or this may be the first time you are hearing about accessible living. 

Regardless of what you may or may not know, this blog hopes to act as a rough guide on how to design accessible homes and the main elements that should be considered when taking on such a task. 


Understanding Accessibility Needs 

The first step is to get clear on the many different accessibility needs there are. Where an accessible house is concerned, we’re often catering to a particular group of people whose individual needs are taken into account in the custom home design. 

These people are:

  • Elderly people
  • Disabled people
  • Handicapped people 
  • People with Sensory Processing Disorder 
  • People with physical health issues 

As we mentioned, when designing an accessible home, we must take the individual specific needs into account. They may have problems with:

  • Mobility 
  • Vision 
  • Hearing 
  • Sensory development 

When designing an accessible home, knowing who you are designing the home for and the everyday struggles they face is key. After all, it’s no good designing custom homes that in no way improves a person’s day-to-day life. 


Entry and Manoeuvrability: Create an Ideal Layout

In most cases, an accessible home’s most important features are entry to the property and manoeuvrability once inside. 


Make the Exterior of the Property Safe 

If you are an able-bodied individual, think about how simple it is for you to enter your home – it’s a case of walking up to the front or back door across (presumably) a safe footpath of some sort, entering your key, turning the handle, and with a gentle push, you’re inside. 

This isn’t so easy for a less able-bodied individual. So when designing this part of the home, it’s important to ensure that driveways and footpaths are as level as can be with as less incline as possible; if the floor level changes, a handrail should be added. Also, ensure there is enough room for a wheelchair to comfortably move from and to the driveway without scratching the car. 

If we’re designing a wheelchair-accessible house, a ramp will be needed rather than any exterior steps. 

Doors that are wider than your standard door are more suitable to offer comfortable entry to the home. 


Ensure the Home is Simple to Manoeuvre 

Now that access to the property has been made more appropriate, the next step is to make sure the inside of the property is also improved and made more accessible. 

The main concerns you would need to be mindful of when designing the inside of an accessible house are the corridors, doors and trip hazards. 


For the corridors, if we’re building a wheelchair-accessible house, these will need to be wide enough to comfortably fit the wheelchair and allow it to easily manoeuvre any turns or bends. Remember that some wheelchairs are operated by the user’s arms turning the wheels, so keep in mind there will need to be ample room for both the wheelchair and arms. 

Eliminating trip hazards is also important for elderly people, those with vision issues, and people who are generally not as able-bodied. Things like console, accent or side tables should probably stay out of the way of corridors, as well as other bits and bobs, such as umbrella stands. 

As for doors inside the home, we recommend pocket doors, as they are easier to open with a simple slide, rather than a twist and pull/push. Also, to transition from the inside to the outside, consider adding bifold doors to your design – these doors make it easier for less able-bodied people to enjoy some outdoor living


Traditional and Modern Assistive Methods 

Over the years there have been many innovations to support people in their day-to-day home life. These methods are great additions to custom homes for disabled people and the elderly. 


Traditional Assistive Methods 

  • Grab rails – these handy rails can be drilled into walls and assist people moving from one location to another, such as moving on and off the toilet and getting in and out of a bathtub. 
  • Handrails – these rails are different from grab rails – they’re often longer and are available for people to hold when going up and down steps or a slope.
  • Stair lifts – a stair lift helps the elderly and disabled people to get up and down the stairs without having to negotiate steps. 
  • Lever handles – these handles are easier to use as opposed to having to grip and twist door knobs; this is especially difficult for someone with arthritis. 

  • Lower countertops – for wheelchair users, the elderly or someone with dwarfism, countertops that are lower to the ground will be easier for them to use. 


Modern Assistive Methods

  • Voice control – many appliances and electronics come with entire voice-controlled systems, and of course, the latest smartphones can be almost entirely operated using your voice alone. This can help people who struggle with vision and hand movements to avoid operating fiddly things like buttons and switches. 
  • App control – nowadays, there are so many household features, such as the boiler, that can be activated and deactivated with our phones, which can save someone from struggling to stand and move to complete simple jobs. 
  • Video doorbells – it’s a pain for disabled and elderly people who struggle to move to answer the door, especially if it’s a cold caller or someone who has the wrong house. With a video doorbell, a person can see who’s at the door and it may save them from taking the effort to get up. 

There are so many ways smart home technology can make homes more accessible. For example, how can smart home technology help elderly people who live alone? This technology turns a home into a smart one that can complete everyday tasks, set reminders, call for help, and encourage socialising. 


Accessible Homes for Sensory Conditions

Someone who has Sensory Processing Disorder will have trouble receiving and processing information through the five senses – touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste. 

With sensory conditions, some people are hyposensitive and some are hypersensitive. 

Hyposensitive people are often considered to be under-sensitive and hypersensitive people are looked at as being oversensitive. 

And there are a few ways we can create a more accessible home for these types of people who suffer from these sensory conditions. 

For hyposensitive people:

  • Sight can be blurry and objects can appear dim so ensure ample lighting and avoid trip hazards 
  • They may be hard of hearing in one or both ears so create an easy-to-navigate layout, such as open-plan. This helps them to be less reliant on hearing out for directions if they get lost or confused in the home

  • Smells and odours may go unnoticed so provide an accessible bathroom area to keep up their cleanliness 
  • These people are prone to injury and have a high pain tolerance so try to limit the amount of possible hazards 

For hypersensitive people:

  • Light and brightness can be uncomfortable so use a calm and neutral colour palette 

  • Sound is amplified so consider soundproofing parts of the home that make a lot of noise 
  • Smells can be distracting so look into different ventilation systems and methods 
  • Certain materials may not be able to be tolerated so check what materials you’re using in your design, for example, what will be used for flooring?

If you’re designing a home that is meant for somebody with sensory conditions, you must make sure they are involved in the design stage as their needs will be specific. 


Final Thoughts 

Custom home construction is one way of guaranteeing a home will be accessible for its owner and anyone else who may live there. 

At Bespoke Norfolk Group, we are a team of custom home builders – we can either renovate your current property to be more accessible for you or a loved one or create an entirely custom home from scratch, taking into account everything you need from your home for accessible living. 

Contact our team today to hear about how we can create an accessible home that ensures a comfortable and stress-free home life for all.