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> Start by providing wider doors everywhere, minimum 810mrn, preferable 915mm. This usually incurs minimal extra cost, and as well makes it easier to move furniture etc. Lever handles with turned back ends are easier to use than knobs.



- Many people in wheelchairs spend large amounts of time at home; provide as much daylight as possible, including kitchens and bathrooms, if possible provide a sunspace and deep window sills for plants, with sills low enough for visibility to the exterior. Solar orientation is especially important for accessible homes.


- All controls must be at appropriate heights (ANSI Standard <1370mm height, or <1170mm height over obstruction of max. 600mm depth). Electrical plugs should be easy to reach for a person in a wheelchair (500mm height above the floor, <1170mm height over obstruction of max. 600mm depth).


- Interior pocket doors are preferred by many people with mobility barriers. Consider the use of vertical blinds instead of interior (slab-type) doors (this was suggested by the residents of the Women's Co-operative Homes building in Hamilton)


- Ensure that sliding closet doors allow for at least 900mm clear opening, a 3-track slider is preferable if there are 3 doors

- Wheelchair tires can mark floors; choose floor-covering colours and patterns that are easy to clean and can hide some of these marks


- It is preferred that accessible suites have their own laundry equipment, however the public laundry room should contain appliances that are accessible to all


- Provide higher baseboards, wainscotting and metal or plastic corner guards to protect walls from damage from wheelchairs and scooters


- Provide extra-large storage rooms with electrical outlet and mechanical ventilation for scooter and electric wheelchair storage /recharging


- Consider location of housing units closer to public areas in building, or at locations where site features, play areas etc. are more visible. In apartment buildings, location of accessible suites at grade is best in terms of fire safety.


- Provide wired telephone jack in all rooms including bathroom


- Provide controls for heat, ventilation and humidity. If higher-than-normal humidity is to be maintained, consider measures to control condensation and to prevent moisture damage.





- Provide second lower magnifying peep hole viewer at entry door of apartments or a window at exterior doors. Special viewers are available with a much-greater-than-standard level of magnification (and with a much wider viewer on the inside face of the door).


- Thresholds must be no higher than 1/2" (12mm). Use sweep-type Weatherstripping mounted on door rather than integral cushion type mounted in threshold. At sliding doors, wood blocking can be installed in the sill track of the non-sliding portion to make the transition less bumpy.


- Provide electric hook-up for installation of electric power assist at suite entrance door


- Take extra care in selection of door closers. Many closers will 'swat' slow movers

- Provide a parcel shelf adjacent to suite entrance, or enough room for a small table


- Ensure that vestibules allow enough space to do a turn between the doors. All living spaces must be larger to accommodate wheelchairs. It should be possible to turn a wheelchair in a complete circle in every room.


- Provide 1525mm diameter turning circle in hallways at bedroom and bathroom doors if possible


- Mount upper cabinets on tracks for adjustability (not too expensive). Consider the use of motorized lower cabinets and flexible plumbing to allow for easy adjustment of counter height. Sometimes the kitchens are used other family members who need higher height counters -- another strategy would be to provide fixed work surfaces at different heights; in an adaptable suite the lower surface might be used as a desk.


- Provide an adjustable shelf between counter and upper cabinets


- Provide wide, fully suspended, deep drawers instead of doors at base cabinets


- Provide at least one bank of shallow drawers of average width. Use large 'D-ring' drawer pulls instead of knobs. Consider the use of sliding doors at upper cabinets.


- Provide electrical outlets and switches at face of counter. If at all possible, do not locate electrical equipment immediately adjacent to sink


- Side by side refrigerator & pantry doors should open 180°. Provide door-mounted shelves in pantries.


- Insulate exposed pipes that may be hot to prevent accidental burns


- Provide roll-out cabinet with cutting board top and / or pull-out work surfaces, for customizing of workspace


- Consider providing pull-out potholder (a pull out board with a hole)


- Provide wall oven with side-mounted door, or microwave/ convection oven, and separate cooktop. Provide shelf for putting hot items from wall oven onto. There should not be a knee space below these appliances (for safety). An adjustable mirror above the cooktop will help a seated person to see.


- Provide surface-mounted fire extinguisher near stovetop. Automated taps can assist people with reaching problems.


- If possible make the countertop deeper at the accessible workspace to prevent bumping of toes on wall. Recess toe space at bottom of all base cabinets.


- Provide a larger broom closet


- Provide extra lights, consider continuous valance-type under upper cabinets


- Provide eat-in kitchen option (so that residents can eat closer to food preparation areas in order to limit travel)





- Provide drainage in floor with a non-slip floor surface. Detail depressed floor slab / structure to minimize risk of water spilling out of bathroom into adjacent rooms.


- Consider using trench drain at threshold to roll-in shower


- Provide additional heat control to 'top up' temperature in bathroom. Radiant heat panels are preferred for quadriplegics, who often cannot regulate their body temperature.


- Provide blocking and / or eyelets for trapeze at tub ceiling


- Provide both tub and shower with seat if possible


- Standard tubs can be raised and provided with a seat ledge at rear and grab-bars


- If possible make the countertop deeper than the standard 24"/610mm to prevent bumping toes on wall. Minimum width of sink countertop 1150rnm


- Install 16mm plywood backing for grab bar support at any wall location (for walls with stud framing)


- Provide emergency alert system near the floor that can be operated by a person who has fallen down


- Provide lockable drawer instead of, or in addition to, medicine cabinet. Provide storage space for bowel and bladder management aids (perhaps in a storage closet that could also be used for towels)


- Provide adjustable / hand-held shower head with flexible hose/ faucet /controls at side of tub. Provide hose of minimum 1500mrn length on hand-held showers


- Ensure that controls are simple to operate


- Lower or tilt mirror


- Use grab-bars as towel bars (knurled stainless steel are preferable to chrome plated)


- Consider setting hot water temperature to minimize scald hazards (the Barrier-Free Design Centre in Toronto suggested 109°F or 43°C)


- Install special higher toilet and grab bars (preferred), or use standard toilet with a raised seat unit that has integral bars


- Provide extra lighting at tub/ shower areas

- Allow floor space for extra equipment, magazine rack etc.


- Provide enough space for transfers, blocking/eyelets for a trapeze


- Carpet floors; glue down very tight loop commercial-grade or indoor-outdoor carpet. For air quality considerations refer to Sustainability pages on this website


- Provide emergency alert system that can be operated by a person who has fallen down


- Provide blocking and/ or eyelets for trapeze above bed location


- Install closet shelves and rods low enough for resident to reach.


- People with limited mobility may spend more time in bed. Provide electric and telelink connections for television, telephone and computer equipment, consider installing intercom and other remote controls for lighting, blinds, environment etc. at bed location.


- Consider use of controls that can be voice-activated.


- Make sure that the window is set low enough so that a person in bed is able to see outdoors





- Design transitions at sills etc. to eliminate barriers (should be as flush as possible)


- Provide protected spaces from sun, rain and snow; if possible provide screened, roofed area for sitting and temporary storage of scooters etc.


- Ground floor accessible apartments should have hard surface access to sidewalks, possibly parking space located near to apartment outdoor spaces to facilitate access without going through the building


- Consider provision of cover at parking spaces, as the transfer process can be lengthy. This may allow for the installation of a transfer aid such as a trapeze. If there is a garage door it should be electrically-operated.


- Raised planting beds adjacent to a hard rolling surface will allow a person in a wheelchair to garden


- Avoid window wells or other hazards close to patio areas


- Slope patio for drainage 2% (the maximum that will provide a relatively flat area)


- Storm doors may be difficult for someone in a wheelchair to maneuver around. Use a slow-moving closing device


- Balcony guards should be designed so that a seated person, or small child can see





- Provide adjustable worktables with enough room for mobility


- If fixed counters are provided, give alternate work heights. People come in many sizes and carry packages. A variety of heights will make accessibility invisible, and provide flexibility for different tasks.













Special Design Considerations for People with Mobility Barriers

At University of Toronto's Hart House, Chris Lea designed the HUB reception counter to be accessible to all people, invisibly, instead of the usual "regular people here, handicapped people there" model

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