Creating an accessible and inclusive home exterior

From the outset this has been a project about making a home accessible but not institutional. It’s an objective that might require greater research than others but it is possible. This home doesn’t just need to be considered accessible it needs to provide universal design and be liveable for the whole family.

There are so many factors in daily life that are challenging to anyone who is physically at a disadvantage. We need to incorporate as much as possible into the design to make the space work easily and giving everyone the freedom to be independent.

This project has really picked up momentum over the last few weeks following a long delay while some legal issues were resolved. The 12 week delay has been frustrating but the trades are all working at an amazing pace now and it is exciting to see so much happening, and an end in sight. The pretty things are all starting to fall into place and ideas that were planned well over a year ago are all coming together into reality at last.

At the very beginning of this process a specialist company were called in to assess the functionality of the current house and advise what needed to be done under the scope of the insurance to modify the house.  Anything above and beyond that scope is down to the family to fund themselves. With careful selections and the assistance and generosity of local suppliers we can take this house from not just functional and bland but to a home that reflects the personalities of the family, giving them a space to live in for many years to come as their lives evolve.

I’ll cover some of the considerations relating to designing the interior elements such as kitchen and bathrooms later but let’s start off with some of the basics and structural work relating to the exterior of the property.

Exterior Finishes


General accessibility upgrades, the not so pretty but essential things.

The biggest change is a full height 12’ addition added to the rear of house, that in itself has generated the need for various improvements. The roof line has changed, we have additional windows, new doors and a new side access to the garage, the removal of the existing deck and so on. We’ve taken that opportunity to change things up a little visually at the same time, updating the roof from a chocolate brown to a charcoal grey, black framed windows, coordinating new downspouts and eaves troughs. The rear of the house is south-facing and the original dark brick has always absorbed the heat of the sun. As it was proving difficult to find brick to match with the new addition, we have chosen to use a stucco finish in a lighter shade which will help confront the heat transfer.

Lower threshold doorways within minimal height differences at both the rear and front of the property for easier transition with a wheelchair.

A paved ramp to the front door of the property allowing direct easy access without having to always go via the garage and platform lift.

Door bell with intercom system operated by smart home technology.

The two existing individual garage doors are to be replaced with one wider door which enables the family’s main accessible vehicle easier access to the garage and more space to get in and out of the car. The garage door will be operable by both the regular remote and with smart home technology from any device.

Garage Transformation

The addition of a platform lift from the ground floor level of the garage to the interior access door to the house. With our harsh Canadian winters the ability to go from car to house undercover without having to negotiate snow and ice in a wheelchair is an added bonus.

Two automatic door openers are being installed, one on the interior door from the garage to the house and one from the rear of the house onto the deck. This enables easier access when carrying things and the ability to be more independent.

A new deck with ramp will provide access from the house to the garden level. The garden is being graded to meet code for accessibility, previously it was on quite a substantial slope.

Hard landscaping has been installed around the property to improve access to the rear yard. To coincide with the landscaping work the family has also decided to add an in-ground swimming pool in the yard. Whilst this obviously provides physical therapeutic value to a paraplegic in the privacy of her own home it also gives the children a space they can safely play together with their friends without barriers.

The development of the rear addition, deck and hard landscaping
Continue Reading