ADA and similar planning for diverse needs
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 14:12:40 -0700 (MST)
Call your local planning and building department (the code-compliance 
folks), and they should be glad to copy off for you the several pages on 
bathrooms and entrances, etc. Architects also typically have books of 
this information. 

Doorway width. 36" is ideal, 32" acceptable (check on 30"). (Here's one 
we overlooked at first:) Also needs a certain clearance to the side of 
the doorknob, so a wheelchair user can get in position to use the 

Lavatory- needs a 5' diameter "turning circle" clear on the floor. 
Allowed to overlap (12" I think) with the door swing trajectory. Certain 
small overlap with toilet bowl and wash basin. Basically, this translates 
into a 6'x8' bathroom floor, if you have a toilet, wash basin, and 
in-swinging door. 

Grab bars in toilet corner. Additional requirements if you have a shower. 

Sink catalogues have listings of sinks which can be used with the 
required clearances for undersink space. The Kohler Farmington model is 
an example of a residential model (ie moderately priced) which can be 
used. Faucet handles can be the big "wrist-blade" type, but other 
right-angle type handles also qualify--- again, the plumbing 
manufacturers often have items coded for ADA compliance. 

Entries: Need level approach or acceptable ramping. At least one entry on 
our CH had to meet this criterion, but not all of them. Not that you 
mightn't want them all to comply. 

Other thoughts, while not necessarily prescribed by codes:
Think of visual and hearing disabilities, as well as hearing 
disabilities. Avoid tripping hazards, for those with impaired vision, and 
also have enough light for those who need more, in general. 
For hearing, and for general purposes, put money and thought into 
acoustics, especially in the dining room. Consider built-in wiring for 
speakers, microphones, etc. 
Allergies are another consideration. We decided on a built-in vacuum 
system, for several reasons, including allergens. Choice of building and 
finishing materials has allergy impacts, too. 

Think too of people who are very tall or very short. A lower counter or 
island in the kitchen prep area. Step stools. Big heavy people-- some 
sturdy, broad, seating.

More subtle yet, but a factor for many people, is the impact of sound and 
light. Avoid commercial refrigeration, which is often regretted for its 
noisiness in common houses. Consciously choose models of exhaust fans, 
heating fans, dimmer switches, fluorescent fixtures, and other items 
which give acceptable background noise levels. Timer switches are another 
item which can make such noise. (Can you tell, I am one who is really 
sensitive to this stuff? But it can be controlled-- my house is really 

Think about light glare. Exterior fixtures should be installed and shaded 
in ways that keep the light going downward, and not shining in neighbors' 
eyes. Interior lights can also glare to neighbors, unless there is some 
shading or window shades.

Thinking ahead on matters like this allows it to be handled in the 
initial construction, which is much easier than trying to retrofit 

Lynn Nadeau
RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend WA
the "detail queen" of our on-going CH construction 
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