Custom Homes & Disabilities

When you have a disability or mobility impairment, it doesn't take long to realize the world wasn't built with your needs in mind. While ADA standardization has greatly improved the accessibility of public spaces for people with disabilities, home environments remain full of obstacles. But if there's one place you should feel comfortable and enabled, it's your home.

Your home shapes your everyday life. It's where you sleep, dress, and eat your meals, where you host friends and family and raise your children. If your home isn't adapted to your mobility needs, every little task becomes more cumbersome, time-consuming, and dangerous. As such, buying or building an accessible home is one of the best things people with disabilities can do to improve their quality of life.

Unfortunately, finding a home that's both accessible and move-in ready is challenging. As such, many buyers with disabilities must purchase a home only to turn around and spend thousands of dollars to remodel it for accessibility (AARP lists some of the most common costs). The result is not only a high price tag, but also months of expense and inconvenience as buyers either live amidst construction or pay for a second home to live in during remodeling. Thankfully, there's another choice: building a new home to suit your needs.

Priority Feature: Wide doorways and hallways.

{Built By: Coats Homes | Architecture: Paul Turney | Interior Design: Neal Stewart Designs | Photography: Nathan Schroder}


Building an Accessible Home

The first question anyone needs to ask when building a home to suit is “What can I afford?” Once you organize your home buying budget, you can start searching for a builder that constructs homes in your price range.

As a buyer with disabilities, you have another big job to tackle before meeting with builders. Because there's no one-size-fits-all blueprint for accessible housing, it's up to you to know what features you need in a home. Make a list of your accessibility requirements and divide it into two categories: priorities and preferences. Priorities are the features you need in a home to make it livable like a single-story design, no-step entry, and wheelchair-accessible kitchen. Preferences are the features you'd like to have but can live without if they're not in the budget.

Here are some features that might make your priorities list:

  • Single-story construction.
  • Open-concept design.
  • Ample overhead, task, and natural lighting.
  • No-step main entrance.
  • Garage parking or flat, wide driveway parking with step-free approach.
  • Wide doorways and hallways.
  • Chair-height outlets and switches.
  • Non-slip floors.
  • Lowered kitchen cabinets.
  • Varied or adjustable-height counters.
  • Knee space under sinks and counters.
  • Front-control appliances.
  • Roll-in shower with seating.
  • Bathroom grab bars.
  • Large bathrooms with open floor space.
  • Pocket doors.
  • Shallow storage areas.

Priority Feature: Front-control appliances.

{Built By: Coats Homes | Architecture: Paul Turney | Interior Design: Coats Homes | Photography: Costa Christ}


In addition to these important items, consider the preferences that make everyday life a little bit easier. Features such as levered door handles, keyless front doors, and smart home technology might seem like unnecessary add-ons, but they have a big impact on the convenience of daily life.

Many homeowners worry that incorporating accessible features will make their home feel hospital-like. A home that looks institutional is less aesthetically pleasing to live in and harder to sell. However, builders familiar with the concept of universal design understand that accessible homes can be beautiful, functional and appeal to a wide range of homebuyers. Check out the examples at HGTV and talk to your builder about how you can seamlessly incorporate accessibility features into your home’s design.

Priority Feature: Shower with seating.

{Built By: Coats Homes | Architecture: Paul Turney | Interior Design: Neal Stewart Designs | Photography: Nathan Schroder}


Modifying a home to be more accessible often requires changing the home's most costly elements. It's common for homeowners with disabilities to move walls, install elevators, remodel kitchens and bathrooms, and tackle other expensive projects. As a result, remodeling an existing home is often less cost-effective than building a custom home. If you want a home that's easy to live in regardless of ability, building a custom home is the perfect solution.


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