Accessibility and Universal Design in Housing
Florida Housing’s Approach to Accessibility
Florida Housing requires all units of a multifamily rental development to
meet all federal requirements and state building code requirements, including
· 2012 Florida
Accessibility Code for Building Construction as adopted pursuant to Section
553.503, Florida Statutes;
· The Fair
Housing Act as implemented by 24 CFR 100;
· Section 504 of
the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and
· Titles II and
III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as implemented by 28 CFR 35,
incorporating the most recent amendments, regulations and rules.
All Housing Credit Developments must comply with Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as implemented by 24 CFR Part 8 (“Section 504 and
its related regulations”). To the extent that a Development is not otherwise
subject to Section 504 and its related regulations, the Development shall
nevertheless comply with Section 504 and its related regulations as
requirements of the Housing Credit Program to the same extent as if the
Development were subject to Section 504 and its related regulations in all
respects. To that end, for purposes of the Housing Credit Program, a Housing
Credit Allocation shall be deemed “Federal financial assistance” within the
meaning of that term as used in Section 504 and its related regulations for all
Housing Credit Developments.
All developments must meet accessibility standards of Section 504.
Section 504 accessibility standards require a minimum of 5 percent of the total
dwelling units, but not fewer than one unit, to be accessible for individuals
with mobility impairments. An additional 2 percent of the total units, but not
fewer than one unit, must be accessible for persons with hearing or vision
Florida Housing’s Approach to Universal Design
Concepts and Features
The intent of the universal design concept is to make more
housing usable by more people at little or no extra cost.
What is a universal design feature?
It is any component of a house that can be used by everyone
regardless of their level of ability or disability. Universal features are
generally standard building products or features that have been placed
differently, selected carefully, or omitted. For example, standard electrical
receptacles can be placed higher than usual above the floor, standard but wider
doors can be selected, and steps at entrances can be eliminated to make housing
more universally usable.
How is universal design approach different
from “accessible housing?”
While accessible or adaptable design requirements are specified
by codes or standards for only some buildings and are aimed at benefiting only
some people (those with mobility limitations), the universal design concept
targets all people of all ages, sizes, and abilities and is applied to all
In addition to accessibility requirements,
Florida Housing requires the following construction features:
entrance door shall have a threshold with no more than a ½-inch rise;
door handles on primary entrance door and interior doors must have lever
handles on all bathroom faucets and kitchen sink faucets;
on light switches and thermostats shall not be more than 48 inches above
finished floor level; and
drawer handles and cabinet door handles in bathroom and kitchen shall be lever
or D-pull type that operate easily using a single closed fist.
The following information outlines some basic concepts of
Universal Design that can be incorporated into housing.
Design Features in Housing – Structural
- Stepless entrances, more than one is
preferred. If only one, the stepless entrance
should not be through a garage or from a patio or raised deck.
- Front door should have windows at a
height that a person in a wheelchair can see outside before opening the
of viewable windows at entrance
first Prince William Universal Design Demonstration House, Prince William
County Government, Prince William, Virginia
- Full-length sidelights, windows in
doors, and/or windows nearby that allow people using wheelchairs to see
who is at the door before opening it.
- Avoid ramps; if ramps are used,
integrate into the design.
- Driveway and garage elevated to
floor level, so that any climbing is done by the automobile. The slope of
the route must be low enough to make traveling from parking to the door
- One-half inch maximum rise at
- Minimum 5x5 level clear space
inside and outside entry door that will allow for maneuvering while
opening and closing door.
- Light outside entry door and
motion-detector controlled lights.
- 32” minimum clear door opening for
all doorways. (36” wide doors.)
- Flush thresholds at all doorways.
- Clear floor space of 18” minimum
beside door to provide space to move out of the way of the door’s swing
when pulling it open.
- Turning space in all rooms of 5’ in
- At least 48” minimum width in
hallways to maneuver.
- An open plan interior design that
minimizes hallways and doorways and maximizes sight lines.
- Light switches 44-48” high, and
thermostats 48” maximum height.
- Electrical outlets at beds and
desks, four-plex boxes each side for computer and electronic equipment as
well as personal use equipment.
- Electrical outlets at 18”minimum
- Electrical panel with top no more
than 43” above floor located with a minimum 30”x48” clear floor space in
- Both audible and visual smoke
- Windows for viewing 36” maximum
- Exterior sliding doors: drop frame
and threshold into subfloor to reduce height of track, or raise the finished
floor to top of track.
Roll-in curbless shower, Kane & Co. Contracting, Richmond, Texas
- At least one
bathroom must have one of the following three accessible bathing fixtures:
Curbless shower that is a minimum of 60” x
stalls that are between 32” x 60” and have a 30” x 48” clear floor space flush
with the control wall, or;
with integral seat, waterproof floor, and a floor drain.
maneuvering space in the bathroom: 60” diameter turning space in the room
and 30”x40” clear floor spaces at each fixture. Spaces may overlap.
Center for Universal Design, North Carolina State
University, Raleigh, NC
- Clear space (3’) in front and to
one side of toilet.
- Toilet centered 18” from any side
wall, cabinet, or tub.
- Blocking in walls around toilet,
tub, and shower for future placement and relocation of grab bars.
- Vanity/sink counter height 32”
- Knee space under sink 29” high. May
be open knee space or achieved by means of removable vanity or fold-back
or self-storing doors. Pipe protection panels must be provided to prevent
contact with hot or sharp surfaces.
- Wall-hung sinks are acceptable with
appropriate pipe protection. However, pedestal sinks are not acceptable.
Controls in Bathrooms
- Offset controls in tub/shower with
adjacent clear floor space. This allows for access outside the tub/shower that
reduces reaching and bending.
- Single-lever water controls at all
faucets and fixtures.
- Anti-scald valves at tubs and
- Clear knee space (minimum 29” high)
under sink, counters, and cook tops. May be open knee space or achieved by
means of removable base cabinets or fold-back or self-storing doors.
- Stretches of continuous countertops
particularly between refrigerator, sink, and stove top.
- Accessible switches for disposal
and range/cook top exhaust fan and light.
- Clear floor space 36” wide across
full width in front of washer and dryer and extending at least 18” beyond
right and left sides.
- Extra length and width around cars
- Build deck at same level as house floor.
Use decking materials that allow for adequate drainage.
Sources: Center for Universal Design, North
Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center), University at
Buffalo, State University of New York