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A Blueprint for Action: A Resource for Promoting Home Modifications


Report Acceptance Date: August 1997 (56 pages)

Posted Date: December 15, 1997

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By the year 2000, it is estimated that one-third of all Americans will be disabled, chronically ill, or over age 65. However, not even 1 in every 10 homes is designed to accommodate the needs of this growing population. Every year increasing numbers of Americans must confront the dilemma: "Do I move or improve my home?" And many times, the choice of where to move is limited to institutional care.

A new report, A Blueprint for Action: A Resource for Promoting Home Modifications, anticipates these choices and their consequences for consumers, builders, service providers, and others. The 60-page report provides information about universal design principles by guiding readers through a discussion of the importance of home modifications and the key issues that impede their adoption. It provides strategies for planning and constructing home modifications, presents an action plan for systemic change developed by the National Home Modifications Action Coalition, and lists sources of available information.

Universal design modifications, which are often relegated to the "special populations" housing market, include on-grade entrances, wider doorways and hallways, and support for railings. But they are not commonly found in existing homes or in most of today's new home designs because local building codes do not require them and the existing market for these modifications is small.

How important are universal design home modifications? An estimated 18 percent of the population has disabling conditions and this number is expected to grow as the population ages. As a consequence, most people are likely to benefit from modified homes at some time in their lives. Universal design advocates believe healthcare costs resulting from injuries and institutional care will decline for people living in modified homes. The American Association of Retired Persons and other advocates view home modifications as a significant factor in the ability of the elderly to age in place.

Lack of knowledge among consumers, homebuilders, and advocates for the elderly and people with disabilities continues to inhibit the supply and demand for home modifications. Unless a potential client uses a wheelchair or has an obvious mobility impairment, a contractor, remodeler, or handyman is unlikely to consider universal design home modifications. A Blueprint for Action offers a number of strategies designed to spread information about universal design and promote its feasibility nationwide -- for example, through programs that educate design and construction professionals about the relevance of universal design for the mainstream population.

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