007: Do no-step entrances matter?

Of course they do. We’re talking about universal design! Listen to Julie & Jackson’s story. You’ll learn about what they have to do just to visit family or friends.

007: Do no-step entrances matter?
Good Fit Poor Fit

 
 
00:00 / 7:33
 
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Show notes

Later in the episode, I mention a home that David Watson (one of our previous students) co-designed. This is the exterior render that shows an example of a home with two no-step entrances. Click here for a blog post that shows more images.

Front of a house with a large garage on the right, flat driveway, and a sloped path to the front door.

Transcript

[00:00:31] Hey everyone. It’s Sarah and welcome to episode number seven. I’m sharing about how the design of the entrance of a home can impact people’s ability to visit their friends and family. This will help you understand how individual needs and the design of the environment results in either a good fit or a poor fit. It’s the little things that can make a big difference. 

[00:00:53] Think about what you do when invited to go over to someone’s house. It’s common to get their address so you can pull up directions on your phone or GPS, ask about bringing something to help out with the meal, and then when the day comes, you just go over.

[00:01:08] However, if someone has an impairment that impacts their mobility, it’s not that simple. We have a group of friends who all get together and at least one person in each couple has a disability that impacts mobility. We’ve often commiserated over accessibility stories and I want to share about the lengths one couple goes through just to plan if they can get inside someone else’s home.

[00:01:32] As a side note, many people choose not to do all of this. They find it easier to host things at their own home or choose to not go out at all. This can cause isolation and change the dynamics of relationships with others. So onto my story. 

[00:01:50] Whether our friends Julie and Jackson are visiting friends locally or from afar, they often have to do some investigative work prior to a visit.

[00:01:58] You see, Julie has a high cervical level spinal cord injury, and she uses a power chair to get around. These power chairs are pretty heavy, like over 300 pounds, which makes it difficult to negotiate any steps and forget about lifting her and her chair up over those steps. Because most family and friends have steps to enter their home, they have actually purchased three different lengths of metal ramps to make it possible to get Julie in smoothly. If the home has only a few steps, they may take the shorter ramp, or if there are lots of steps or multiple sections of steps, they may need to take the long one or grab two or more of their ramps to get inside safely.

[00:02:41] To determine what your ramp or ramps are needed, they may have to ask the people they’re visiting about the design of the entrance and maybe have them measure the steps and take a picture to send along to them. In the past, Julie and Jackson have driven by the home prior to the event to kind of scout things out, and they’ve even looked up the location they’re going to on Google earth to get the lay of the land. This process is pretty crucial for their ability to just get inside. If they bring the wrong ramp, the angle could be too steep.

[00:03:11] Also, think about front entrances with porches. A lot of times there are steps to get onto the porch and then another step or two to get through the door. This makes it really difficult to use a portable ramp, but all of these little details have to be considered. And this is a lot of work to plan just to visit someone. 

[00:03:31] If homes are designed without steps to get in, then this entire process wouldn’t have to occur. Jackson and Julie could just get into their van and pop over to someone’s home and not worry about what it’s going to be like to get inside. That can also create a lot of anxiety and build up to actually visiting someone.

[00:03:50] If you’re thinking about trying to make an entrance to your home to make it more accessible or you’re a builder helping others do this, a no-step entry can be a bit tricky if a home is already built. You not only have to figure out what entrance to modify, but you have to think through what will it look like aesthetically.

[00:04:09] Oftentimes there’s no way to add a ramp without it looking unsightly and out of place, but sometimes it does work well. And sometimes the ground can be built up to create a sloping pathway at the entrance instead of using a ramp. You could also do a back entrance to a deck. 

[00:04:26] Sometimes people worry about integrating a no-step entry because of the need to keep water and other elements outside. This fear can be alleviated with a covered landing area and making sure the site is designed so water flows away from the home. 

[00:04:41] In this podcast, we talk mostly about the concept of universal design and how it can be integrated into the entire home. However, there is another accessibility term out there that you may have heard of called visitability, which is basically advocating for homes to be designed so someone can enter the front door without steps and use a bathroom on the first floor.

[00:05:01] While the concept of universal design does address many more functional issues that visibility does not, the ability to make it easy for friends and family to get through the front door and be in community with others makes a home so much more welcoming. So if you’re building a new home for your family or you’re in a design or building profession, consider a no-step entry for at least one or more entrances.

[00:05:28] I know each situation has its own barriers, but it’s much easier to plan for a no-step entry on a home before it’s built. We’ve had friends consider this when building their homes, and it’s so wonderful that they’re actually willing to put this feature in place for us so we can easily visit. Not only is it helpful for friends and family to use when visiting, but surprisingly useful for other tasks too. Think about bringing in groceries, taking kids or luggage out of the car, or hauling big items or furniture into the home.

[00:05:58] The lack of steps may be a better fit for your lifestyle than you realize. Plus, there’s a social component to all of this as well. I’m sure you have friends or family that you would like to have over to your home and would really appreciate being able to visit without the struggle. If you’d like to see an example head over to goodfitpoorfit.com and look for episode number seven.

[00:06:20] The home we have in the show notes was designed by a student intern at The Universal Design Project and has two options for getting into the home without steps. In this scenario, Jackson and Julie could enter through the garage door or through the front door. The sidewalk is extra wide, so there’s no danger of slipping off an edge. There are no sharp turns, and of course, there would be excellent lighting along the pathway at the front door to make sure there’s no shadows at night. 

[00:06:46] I hope you learned why a functional entrance is super important and I hope that you’ll tune in for more stories like this in future episodes!

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