Universal Design

Download the entire Smart Choice Homes: Homes for All of Us, Homes for a Lifetime guide.

Smart design equals smart living. Smart Living design makes a home user-friendly and easy to access. Steps at the front door pose an equal challenge to a stroller or a wheelchair. In Smart Living Homes, families are able to welcome relatives and friends with disabilities. Residents who develop disabilities are more likely to be able to remain in their homes rather than having to move or remodel. The resale of the home is enhanced because buyers are attracted to homes that are flexible, easy to use and welcome everyone.

Features of a Smart Choice Home

Man in wheelchair washing dishes The Basic:

  • A no-step entrance
  • Hallways a minimum of 36” wide
  • Doorways with 32” of clear space
  • Powder room on the main level that has adequate space for maneuverability
  • Electrical and climate controls located at reachable heights
  • Blocking in bathroom walls to allow for installation of grab bars

Even Better:

  • Lever handles on doors, cabinets and plumbing fixtures
  • Handrails on both sides of stairways
  • Smooth, slip resistant flooring or flat-pile carpet
  • 5-ft turnaround space in smaller spaces (kitchens, baths)
  • Countertops of varying heights
  • Lazy-susans for ease of access
  • Heat-proof surfaces near cooking appliances.
  • Higher toilet seats (17 to 19 inches)
  • Adjustable closet rods, shelves and countertops
  • Roll-out shelves or drawers in cabinets

Benefits of a Smart Choice Home

  • Design that allows for flexibility
  • Makes getting in and out of the house easier, whether carrying heavy packages, pushing a stroller or using a wheelchair
  • Family and friends of all abilities can participate in events, holidays and visit with friends and neighbors
  • People can “age in place” and stay in their homes regardless of ability
  • Easily accessible homes are good for our community and our economy.

Smart Choice Living is a 2-Tier Approach

Tier I has three basic elements:

  • At least one accessible (no-step) entrance located at the front door, back door, side door, deck or through the garage, which connects to main living areas.
  • A powder room or bathroom that has maneuverable interior space.
  • Doors with at least 32” clear space

Tier II has all the elements of Tier I, and includes a circulation path that connects the accessible entrance to at least one bedroom, a full bath and the kitchen.

Estimated Costs

  • On new construction: $200 zero-step entrance plus $50 interior doors; total about $250 (about 1/3 the cost of one bay window).
  • When retrofitting: Conservatively, an average of $3,300 to add a safe zero-step entrance to an existing home. Conservatively, an average of $700 to widen each interior doorway.

Tax Benefits

If you modify your home to make it more accessible, you may qualify to claim a credit on your Virginia income tax. The Virginia Livable Home Tax Credit (LHTC) program is designed to improve accessibility and universal visitability in Virginia’s residential units by providing state tax credits for the purchase of new units or the retrofitting of existing housing units. Tax credits are available for up to $5,000 for the purchase of a new accessible residence and up to 50 percent for the cost of retrofitting existing units, not to exceed $5,000.

For complete details concerning eligibility, requirements and process guidelines and application please visit http://www.vda.virginia.gov/homeaccessibility.asp or call (804)371-7124.