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There are many homes out there that claim to be ADA accessible, but once you get in them, it’s clear that the builders have done the bare minimum to meet accessibility standards. While those standards might be doable, they’re not always the most comfortable, or the easiest way to live. If you’re considering purchasing or building an accessible home for yourself or for a family member with a disability, it might make the most sense to build a custom home that’s suited just to you.

Your home is where you spend a majority of your time, after all, and if you or a family member use a wheelchair, you deserve to come home to a place that’s comfortable and easy to maneuver around. There’s no point in struggling in the one place you should be the most comfortable — home. Custom building is a great way to make sure that you get an accessible home that’s not only livable, but that fits your style. Here are a few things to think about when building your accessible custom home, so you end up with a house that’s suited perfectly to you:


The first thing to consider when designing or building an accessible custom home for someone with a physical disability is how many floors you’ll have. Most people prefer a single story design because then you don’t have to worry about installing a ramp or lift within your home. But if you have kids or other family members who might not need all of the accessibility modifications, it could make sense to have a second floor to maximize your space.

Regardless of if you go with one story, two or even three, the first floor of your home should be completely accessible and have everything you need for a life that’s not just accessible, but luxurious and comfortable.


A no step floor plan is the best way to make your life as simple as possible. No-step floorplans are easily done, you just need to mention to your builder that’s what you’re looking for. This way, the lot you’re building on can be developed to ensure you have a solid, flat first floor that doesn’t need steps to get from one room to the next.

And if you’re looking to go one level beyond a no-step floor plan, you might consider installing an elevator. This ensures that anyone who uses a wheelchair has access to the full range of your new custom home. Elevators extend the usable space that’s accessible to everyone in your home, and can easily be installed with a custom builder.


Open concept floor plans are quite popular these days, and they’re also very handy when you’re looking to build an accessible home. The fewer doorways, the easier it is to maneuver a wheelchair through the home. An open concept floorplan gives you the dual benefit of a cohesive flow throughout your custom home and an accessibility that makes it easy to navigate from room to room within your house.


When you’re designing a custom home, you want it to look beautiful both inside and out, but it also needs to be functional. Too often, people place accessible entrances in the back or in the garage of a home, because they’re afraid it won’t look nice to have a ramp up to the front door.

When you’re building a custom home, this problem is easily solved. Have your builder design your home so you need minimal incline to get inside. This way you can have just a small, gentle grade leading up to the entryway of your home, or you can install a graceful, landscaped ramp that lends itself to your home’s curb appeal. Since you’re designing a custom home, those are choices that you get to make to ensure your home is both beautiful, and accessible.


Though of course, you’ll want to access your home from the front door, it’s also a good idea to make sure you can easily get into your home from the garage. A zero step entry from the garage is also easy to install, especially when you’re working with a custom builder. Be sure to mention that’s what you’re looking for when you’re talking to your builder about the design of your wheelchair accessible home. Having no step entry from your garage will make it easy to bring in groceries, and access your home from more than one entry point.  Again, when you’re building a custom home, you get to make all the decisions, so talk to your custom builder about the best options for your home.


Building a custom home that’s accessible for a wheelchair user means more than just having an open floor plan. While that barrier-free design, and a no step floorplan certainly helps, there are a few more things to keep in mind when designing a wheelchair accessible custom home:


Standard height countertops are often above shoulder level for someone in a wheelchair, making it difficult to cook, access sinks and tools, and really do much of anything in the kitchen. Simply lowering the height of the countertops in your kitchen can help ensure that someone in a wheelchair can get to anything they need, and cook and prepare food without hassle.


Removing the cabinets under the sink, and ensuring plumbing is installed tight to the wall and bottom of the sink can make it much easier for someone in a wheelchair to access the sink. Without cabinets, the sink becomes roll under, which makes it simple to do dishes without having trouble turning on the faucet, or reaching into the sink.


While you don’t want too much storage under workspaces, like the sink and a food prepping area, it is a good idea to install ground-level cabinets and storage elsewhere, so that items are easy to reach from chair-level. If a custom design is about making your life easier, storage should be simple to reach from anywhere, and high cabinets just don’t make sense in a home that needs to be accessible for a person using a wheelchair.

If you have an open concept floor plan, it’s easy to add additional storage beyond the kitchen and into the dining room. With your open concept floor plan, it won’t seem odd to have additional lower level cabinets extending past the kitchen, and that extra storage can even help improve the visual flow of one room into the next.


When you’re building an accessible custom home, you have the power and the freedom to design a bathroom that’s truly spa-like, but that still meets your needs. A few ways to make your new bathroom both luxurious and easy to use:


Create a beautiful roll-in shower by choosing some gorgeous tile in a color and pattern that feels like a spa. You can either opt to make the bathroom totally tiled, with a drain in the center, and the floor sloped to the drain, or choose a shower with a half wall, that you can roll into, but that creates separation between the shower and the rest of the bathroom. For added luxury, you might also include a separate, accessible soaking tub.


There’s nothing worse than a vanity mirror that you can’t get close enough to actually see yourself in. Fix this common bathroom inconvenience with a roll-under sink or vanity, that makes it easy to place yourself right in front of the mirror. You can keep the storage by using a vanity that has a cut out for your chair, but plenty of drawers and cabinets on either side.


One key feature of a wheelchair accessible bathroom is grab-bars. Think about where you need them most, and make sure they’re installed at the right height for you. Another benefit of building a custom home is that you have final say over where everything goes, so you can decide exactly where to place grab bars so they make the most sense for you.

If you’re looking for a wheelchair accessible home, be sure to keep custom home building in mind. It’s one of the few ways to get a home that’s completely tailored to your needs and your taste. For a quality custom home builder with experience designing and creating accessible homes, check out Whitmore Custom Homes. A local trusted custom home builder, we’re here to listen to your needs and build an accessible custom home that best reflects your tastes and your lifestyle. Give us a call at 616-446-3482, or contact us online for more information today!

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