Many stock plans begin life as custom designs for a real person or family. If someone commissioned Design J-95, it wasn't Peter Pan. Why? Because Design J-95 is for someone who admits they may grow old.
Time is a dimension often overlooked in floor plans. Concern with "looks" in a home can sometimes crowd out the realities of aging or disability. This oversight is so common that experts in the universal design field have coined the term, "Peter Pan houses," to describe homes that are pretty but not very practical over the lifespan.
Design J-95 is a small ranch with a practical streak. It has a garage ramp and spacious landing that make it possible for someone in a wheelchair to easily enter the back door. Doors are three feet wide. Interior halls are at least four feet wide, which is the minimum width needed for one person in a wheelchair and one ambulatory person to pass comfortably in a hall without one person having to move aside. The long bathrooms and deep shower in Design J-95 also are easier to navigate in a wheelchair.
Americans do plan to age in place. A survey by the AARP shows that, barring catastrophic illness, eight out of 10 respondents intend to stay at home as they advance in years. In the 21st century, house plans that have the broadest appeal will take into account the normal effects of aging.
Effective universal design meets the needs of all ages and levels of mobility, without appearing institutional. Design J-95 comes close, but might benefit from some updating. For example, the front porch is too narrow for anyone -- in a wheelchair or not -- to sit on comfortably. Also, the windows appear more decorative than useful. Consider using casement instead of double-hung windows, for easier "crank out" operation while seated in a wheelchair. These changes will insure a more accessible design while still blending in with most neighborhoods.
Accessible homes are highly marketable and not all that difficult to design. Design J-95 is an affordable home with the potential for aging in place.
(Contact Emily directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. To evaluate any plan specifically for accessibility, contact The Center for Universal Design (1-800-647-6777 or www.design.ncsu.edu/cud) for expert advice.)
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