‘Visitability’ can be a welcoming addition to home design

    If your mother-in-law uses a walker and you invite her over for dinner, it would be nice if she could get to the bathroom without assistance.

    The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging is urging home builders to make their properties a little more welcoming to older adults — and the rest of us.

    Laura Taylor, who works with Philadelphia’s Office of Housing and Community Development, says the idea is called “visitability.”

    “It has to have a no-step entrance, it has to have wide enough doors on the bathroom, and it has to have a powder room on the first floor. Those are the basic concepts of visitability,” Taylor said.

    Developers began thinking about visitability for people who use wheelchairs and others with mobility impairments, but they say lots of people appreciate an easy entrance, including parents with strollers, cyclists and anyone who hates to drag heavy luggage up the front steps.

    Real estate developer Tim Henkel with Pennrose Properties in Philadelphia says his 8-year-old, who uses a wheelchair, has become a great tester of easy-to-visit spaces.

    He looks for light switches that are out of his reach, and he notices when he has to take a ramp on a round-about route to get inside a store.

    “You often notice people readily opening doors for people who are in wheelchair. Why wouldn’t we as designers and developers of homes and others spaces not do the same thing in our design?” Henkel said.

    Pittsburgh offers tax credits for homes that are built with visitability in mind.

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