I spend a lot of time thinking about how to be more sustainable at home. Usually, this involves more temporary choices we can make: furniture options, low- or zero-VOC paint options, reusing, repurposing and recycling, etc. Those are decisions all of us can consider carefully, whether we own or home or rent it, and no matter the size of our space. The other end of the spectrum involved bigger decisions, like building materials, energy efficiency, the position of our home on the lot in relation to the sun, etc. In other words, changes that are challenging, if not impossible, to make once a home is built.
Thinking about this has really made me consider how accessibility fits in with the idea of building for sustainability. Most of us never really consider accessibility at home until we need it. For example, we may never notice how narrow our hallways are or how high our counters are until we host someone who is in a wheelchair, or until we need one ourselves. Going up and down stairs may be no big deal for those who are able-bodied, but a real point challenge for those who are not. And while many of these things can be changed to accommodate accessibility later on, wouldn’t it be a good idea to consider these things early in the home building or home buying process if possible?
After all, the general principle of sustainability is opting for things that can last a long time, rather than things that are disposable or otherwise outlive their usefulness sooner rather than later. If we apply that principle to home building and buying, it’s a good idea to take accessibility into consideration if we plan to own our homes for most of our lives.
For example, having a stair lift or elevator in our home, or adding one from a company like Stiltzlifts or Lifton, will make going from one floor to the next a lot easier when age or physical challenges make it tough. Including rails in the bathroom and accessible shower stalls are a handy convenience when you’re able-bodied, but a necessary feature when you have a physical disability. Open floor plans are popular because they’re beautiful and a great use of space, but also make it easier to get around.
I just think that as we consider sustainability at home, we should consider the fact that accessibility make our homes more sustainable in the long run.