“Visitability is a movement to change home construction practices so that virtually all new homes — not merely those custom-built for occupants who currently have disabilities — offer a few specific features making the home easier for mobility-impaired people to live in and visit.” (Concrete Change) A myth that only a small percentage of housing needs to be accessible exits and should be corrected. Sixty (60) percent of all new houses are projected to have a resident with long-term, severe mobility impairment over the lifetime of the house itself. It is not just wheelchair users who cannot go up a step. People using walkers and others who have stiffness, weakness, or poor balance have trouble with steps. People with mobility issues already feel isolated from places in their communities. Homes need to be visitable. People with disabilities want and need to be able to visit homes of friends and relatives. Visitable communities is a movement that promotes having and building homes that welcome everyone. (See other myths about housing here at Concrete Change.)
I would like to share a personal story as an example of why visitability is important. Several years ago, my mother broke her hip. She suddenly needed to use a motorized cart to get around. I live in a split level house that has no zero step entries or a bathroom on the main floor. So for nearly one year, my mother did not come to my house because it was not visitable. Unfortunately, this limited time that she could spend with my son, her grandson, when he was a baby. She was unable to participate in some family gatherings because she could not get into our house.
Since then, I learned from John and Connie Lyle-O’Brien about Eleanor Smith who is a champion for visitable communities. She founded an organization called Concrete Change. She lives in East Lake Commons near Atlanta GA that is a co-housing community. This community of 100 homes is completely accessible. Not only does Eleanor live in a visitable community, but she is an advocate for all new housing construction to be visitable. Here is a link to an organization that designs such communities – Village Habitat.
While it may not be possible for every home to be visitable now, in emerging beloved communities, people need to talk about, promote and strive for this goal. People cannot touch other people without access. Everyone in the community misses out when our friends and families with disabilities cannot be with us in our homes. Visitable Communities are good for everyone!