Accessible Design*

Accessible features in dwellings include items such as wide doors, sufficient clear floor space for wheelchairs, lower countertop segments, level and loop type handles on hardware, seats at bathing fixtures, grab bars in bathrooms, knee spaces under sinks and counters, audible and visual signals, switches and controls in easily reached locations, entrances free of steps and stairs, and an accessible route through the house. Most accessible features are permanently fixed in place and very apparent.

Accessibility Checklist* *

When you preview a house for accessibility, specifically wheelchair, note each item that is presently available. Individual access needs vary greatly. Wheelchairs are used for different reasons and come in many different sizes, so while one person using a wheelchair may be able to get through a 32 inch doorway, another may need 36 inches. Where a range of measurement is indicated on the accessibility checklist, note the exact width or height in the space provided.
The list will provide the user with a measure of existing accessibility features. Certainly all of these features are not necessary, nor even desirable, to meet the needs of an individual with a disability. This checklist is intended to generate enough information about any given home to let people interested in accessibility features know if it warrants consideration. At the end of the checklist, you will find some general adaptation tips and resources.

  • One-story building
  • Multilevel house with main level accessible (entrance, bathroom, and bedroom)
  • Level entry way or ramp with entry level landing for easy door opening
  • Wide doorways (32"- 36" clear width)
  • Wide hallways (42"- 60")
  • Low-pile carpeting with thin padding
  • Chair-height (48"- 54")* doorbell/mailbox
  • Chair-height electrical controls/outlets (excluding the kitchen, generally controls are 6" lower and outlets are 6" higher than standard)
  • Chair-height push-button telephones/jacks
  • Accessible, easily operated window controls, i.e. slide to side can be opened with one hand or less than eight pounds of pressure, located 24" 28" from floor
  • Direct outside emergency exit from bedroom
  • Audio and visual smoke detectors
  • Large windows, overhead lighting or several electrical outlets in each room. (Lighting is a big consideration for persons with low vision.)

*(Note: Chair-height is defined as how far a person using a wheelchair can reach. Using a front approach, chair-height for a person using a wheelchair is approximately 48 inches. Using a parallel approach, chair-height is about 54 inches.)

  • Front control-operated range
  • Countertop range
  • Lowered wall oven (30"- 42")
  • Side by side, frost-free, dispenser-type refrigerator
  • Varying countertop and cabinet heights
  • Counters with pullout cutting boards
  • Front control-operated, built-in dishwasher
  • Front loading washer/dryer
  • Outswing doors
  • Nonslip floors
  • Grab bars
  • Reinforced walls (i.e., 3/4" plywood backing throughout) for installation of grab bars
  • 5' square clear area (required for most wheelchair users to make a 360 degree turn). Since many wheelchair users can function in smaller areas, measure exact clear floor space if less than 5'
  • Chair-height racks/shelves/cabinets
  • Lever hand faucets
  • Lowered or tilted mirror
  • Roll-under vanity top
  • Hinged, fold-down seat in shower
  • Roll-in shower with no curb
  • Handheld or adjustable shower head
  • Bathtub with nonskid strips or surface
  • Toilet seat 17"- 19" from floor; or wall mounted toilet
  • Telephone outlet
  • Open floor plan
  • Built-in cabinets have 6" baseboard recess
  • Built-in wall bed
  • Direct access to accessible bathroom
  • Reinforced ceiling (to accommodate pulleys for lifting mechanisms)
  • Sliding doors or bi-folding doors
  • Adjustable shelves and hanging rods
  • Shallow shelves no more than 18" deep
  • Attached
  • Oversized
  • High ceiling (9'6" needed to accommodate a raised-top van)
  • Automatic door opener
  • On or near public transportation
  • Conveniently located to shopping area


Source Credits
*The material provided under the heading “Accessible Design” has been reprinted verbatim from the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina University. Disclaimer: The Principles of Universal Design was conceived and developed by The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. Use or application of the Principles in any form by an individual or organization is separate and distinct from the Principles and does not constitute or imply acceptance or endorsement by The Center for Universal Design of the use or application.

**The Accessibility Checklist has been reprinted verbatim with permission from Easter Seals Disability Services, copyright 2013, all rights reserved.