Planning for accessibility and visitability
From: Debby Vajda (
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2011 18:44:42 -0800 (PST)
Hi Everyone,
As many of you know, when CoHo Ecovillage in Corvallis, Oregon was in formation, we had a commitment to making most of our units accessible and visitable to people using wheelchairs and walkers.We were fortunate in having early members whose adult children were in wheelchairs, which made an impact on our initial thinking and planning.

We then became interested in opening up the opportunity of living in cohousing to someone who might typically be isolated due to physical disability, and unable to join our community without financial assistance because of limited income.Out of this came the creation of our 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, A Home in Community.AHIC purchased a unit at CoHo which will always be available as an affordable rental for a low-income adult with physical disabilities.

Since the creation of AHIC, our vision has grown, as we have become increasingly aware of the many benefits to the entire community of accessibility and visitability, whether or not a particular unit is set aside, as we have done.Here are some of these benefits:

   * People with physical disabilities have the opportunity to live in
     community, and the community benefits from their presence.
   * All community members are able to age in place, even as our
     physical abilities change with time.
   * All homes are visitable by everyone, broadening our connections
     and friendships.

"Visitability" is a growing trend nationwide. The term refers to single-family or owner-occupied housing designed in such a way that it can be lived in or visited by people who have trouble with steps or who use wheelchairs or walkers. A house is visitable when it meets three basic requirements:

   * one zero-step entrance.
   * doors with 32 inches of clear passage space.
   * one bathroom on the main floor you can get into in a wheelchair

We would like to strongly encourage communities in formation to consider accessibility and visitability during the planning stages of your community.Here are some of the many resources available to you.

   * The 30-minute presentation, "Building An Inclusive Community:  The
     AHIC Experience", made by AHIC at the 2009 National Cohousing
     Conference is now available via You Tube.  You can access both
     parts of it directly from our home page at <>

   * A useful booklet on visitability can be found at more
     resources, of course, can be found throughout the web.

   * If your community has an interest in forming something similar to
     AHIC but you'd like to avoid the hassle and expense of forming
     your own nonprofit, we may be able to assist you by becoming your
     fiscal sponsor.We would be happy to discuss this possibility with you.

Please feel free to let us know if we can be of help.Let's make our communities accessible to everyone -- including ourselves, in our perhaps not so physically able futures!

Debby Vajda
info [at]

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