086: Accessible Tiny Homes

Good Fit Poor Fit
086: Accessible Tiny Homes

Show Notes:

Article: Wheelchair Accessible Tiny House for People with Disabilities

Tiny Home + Entrance Example Video: Tiny House Designed To Be Elderly / Disability / Mobility Friendly

Bus Conversion + Murphy Bed Example Video: His Wheelchair Accessible DIY School Bus Tiny House


Sarah: [00:00:00] You’re listening to Good Fit Poor Fit. Our podcast is part of The UD Project, a small business rooted in occupational therapy that looks at how the design of a home environment impacts how well people of different ages and abilities perform everyday activities. We chat about this unique perspective to boost your knowledge and help you consider what can be changed in communities like yours.
Learn more about our work at universaldesign.org.

Anisha: Welcome to Good Fit, Poor Fit, where today we’ll be exploring innovative solutions for creating affordable, universally accessible housing.

You might recognize my voice from a UD and Me episode a few weeks ago. My name is Anisha Carr and I’m a doctorate student at Towson University working with The UD Project to complete my capstone and doctoral experiential practicum. Today I’ll be taking over the podcast to explore the exciting world of tiny house living with a special focus on accessibility and universal design.

[00:01:00] First, we’re going to start out with some background information to help you understand what exactly a tiny house is. Then we’ll talk about the functionality of a typical tiny home layout and the problems that people with disabilities might encounter. We’ll also discuss how to implement UD features in tiny homes and all the cool options that exist for making tiny living accessible.

We’ll finish off the episode by speaking on some of the other important factors to consider when living tiny, like the cost and community benefits.

Rebecca: This all sounds great, Anisha. We’ve explored a few home styles on the podcast before, like multi-generational homes, but never the topic of tiny homes. I can’t resist the joke, this episode may be about tiny houses, but there is a boatload of information to learn here, so let’s dive in. So Anisha, my only knowledge of tiny homes is from watching the Netflix show Grace and Frankie, where one of the sons lives in a tiny home outside of his stepsister’s house. But, I bet a lot of listeners like me don’t really know what a tiny home is. Can you share with us exactly what a tiny home is?

Anisha: Sure, tiny [00:02:00] home living is an alternative option for housing that provides additional financial freedom, ability to relocate, and environmental sustainability. Tiny homes have been steadily gaining traction in the media as larger and more accommodating options pop up into the market.

Tiny homes can come in a variety of forms, with tiny houses on wheels being the most popular option. These homes can be semi-permanent with built-in decks and outdoor living spaces, but still have the flexibility to relocate when the time calls for it. These homes are built on trailer frames, and they need to adhere to typical trailer size standards in order to be legally moved on the road.

Another option are tiny homes built on foundations. These homes are permanent and can’t be moved, but the dimensions are a lot more flexible, and you don’t have to have them shaped like trailers, which leaves a lot more room for creativity in the floor plan. RVs are another important option that are probably one of the most familiar forms of tiny house living.

RVs offer flexibility and mobility, allowing residents to explore and travel while taking their home with them. RVs are well known and have been popular for years, [00:03:00] meaning that the zoning regulations are far more established, making it a little bit easier to park your home legally.

Similarly, bus conversions are also an awesome way to create small portable living spaces. Converting a bus, which is typically a school bus, into a living space means that you’re not stuck in one location. A huge plus for bus conversions in RVs is that people are able to live completely off grid and can move around as easily as just driving their house to a new location, which is much, much easier than moving most tiny homes on wheels.

Yurts are another form of tiny living that require very little manpower to build and are essentially just large circular tents made from a wooden frame and canvas covering. These homes offer a very open layout and more flexibility and customization. Even though all of these options are really exciting the zoning regulations in the area you plan to live will typically determine the best option.

Some counties don’t allow tiny homes to be on wheels and rather secured to a foundation in some way, while other counties don’t allow you to live full-time legally in a tiny home on a foundation. All these [00:04:00] things are important to think about when you’re considering living tiny.
Either way, there are countless other tiny living options, all with their pros and cons.

Sarah: Thanks for that rundown, Anisha. Yeah, these zoning regulations and the uniqueness of these housing styles definitely need to be researched before considering something for yourself. We have often wondered what it would be like living in a yurt because of the open floor plan, and my husband, who uses a wheelchair, would really like that idea.
And I can’t help being curious about those TV shows where they design those luxury tree houses in people’s backyards. There’s also the topic of ADUs, or accessory dwelling units, or granny pods, that we’ve also heard a lot of conversation about as well. These are also regulated by zoning laws and can be desirable for families to keep their loved one close by and still provide them some convenience of their own space.
But regardless of the names of these tiny structures and movable or not, [00:05:00] creativity comes into play when we think about making them usable by a wide variety of people, especially with a small footprint. Rebecca, can you tell our listeners what we typically see in the design and layout of tiny homes?

Rebecca: Sure. Some common features that you could see in tiny homes include compact layouts, meaning a lot of typical home features are condensed into a smaller area. This can often mean that space is used more efficiently, so you may see things like lofted sleeping areas and minimal but creative storage. The doorways in tiny homes are also typically quite narrow. On a similar note, people setting up and living in tiny homes have to think a bit more outside the box when it comes to preparing their space for activities that they want or need to do at home. So, a lot of tiny homes will have multi-purpose spaces that require the user to reorganize furniture or move things around to accommodate different tasks. Also, a lot of folks who live in tiny homes will do a lot of activities that they can outside. This is called [00:06:00] indoor outdoor living. Appliances are also typically compact, since even just a standard sized refrigerator and oven can take up quite a bit of space. Regarding plumbing and electricity, there are options, and it really depends on the style of the tiny home. Some may run on a generator, some may use a composting toilet if they’re on the move. These kinds of things can really depend on the specific tiny home and its user, or users. Generally, tiny home living is associated with a minimalistic lifestyle because these spaces really only allow for the bare minimum in terms of storage and functional space. Anisha, with your OT brain, when we think about these typical tiny home design features and what we know about the convenience of universal design and how people with disabilities use spaces, what sorts of barriers could people face in the design of a tiny home if access wasn’t really considered?

Anisha: That’s a great question, Rebecca. Tiny homes have a lot of features that seem to clash with typical universal design features. While we all probably associate accessibility needs with physical disabilities, it’s also [00:07:00] important to acknowledge that not all disabilities are physical and universal design should consider these disabilities as well. There are a range of sensory, cognitive, developmental, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities that may require special accommodations for safety. There’s also a lot of talk these days about our aging population, too.

A change in balance, reduced dexterity, or decreased vision or hearing that are typical with old age can make daily tasks become more difficult as time goes on, which is essential to consider when choosing where to live.

Regardless of the disability label or change in functioning, there are many things that can all influence the way a person interacts with their environment and should be considered when thinking about the barriers to accessibility, especially in a tiny home. So how would individuals who experience disability struggle to interact with a traditional tiny home?
First, a compact layout means less floor space and narrow doorways for people that use walkers, wheelchairs, canes, etc. There’s less room to get through the doorways and turn around in a space, making it difficult to perform daily tasks.

There’s an [00:08:00] obvious barrier with lofted sleeping spaces, which can be dangerous for those with mobility, dexterity, memory, cognition, or vision challenges, as they require a ladder or uniquely placed steps to go up and down.

Sarah: As I’ve come to know a lot of people over the years with a wide variety of disabilities, compact spaces are a big frustration when trying to complete daily tasks. It causes a lot of wear and tear on the home because you’re constantly running into things or moving your body in uncomfortable ways to reach what you need.

Anisha: Sarah, that makes a lot of sense and that leads me to one of the other points Rebecca made with storage. The majority of tiny living storage might be up high, super close to the floor, under your bed, or even embedded in the stairs, if you have stairs. These unconventional storage options are great for someone with mobility to reach them, however it isn’t always possible for people with disabilities to easily grab what’s needed.

Many people with disabilities often need to store extra medical supplies and specialized equipment in addition to the other typical items that we use daily, including additional [00:09:00] shower chairs or an additional wheelchair or walker for use out in the community versus the one that they might use at home.

Creativity comes into play so that you’re not tripping on your extra wheelchair or service dog harness when you’re not using it. Multipurpose spaces and multifunctional furniture are a hallmark of tiny home living and a great way to save space. I’ve seen a lot of unique space saving solutions, such as a piece of art that folds down into a workspace or storage that doubles as a chair.

While some of these transformations wouldn’t work for all disability types, if you go about one of these projects on your own, you have the opportunity to make sure the transformations work for your needs, whether you struggle with endurance, mobility, dexterity, reach or vision loss. It’s always important to make sure the mechanism for changing these spaces is easy to understand.

And if they’re not too heavy, I love that Rebecca also mentioned indoor and outdoor living, which has to be one of my favorite parts of tiny homes. I’ll go into some considerations for that later in the podcast.

Rebecca: Yeah, I have to say, when I was first thinking about this episode, I just kept [00:10:00] wondering, How could tiny homes work with such limited space? But I like that you pointed out that if someone is designing their own tiny home, they can be both creative and strategic about the way that it’s made to best support their needs. I wonder if in a way, the creative process that goes into tiny home creation could actually be applied quite well in the typical housing design sphere. The open mindedness and creativity that goes into making a tiny home could really be cool if put to use in typical house building, and could lead to more flexible, intuitive, efficient, and sustainable designs. But I digress. If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of living tiny with a disability, we found a great article written by a travel lover, who’s also a wheelchair user, and we’ve linked that in the show notes. She does a great job highlighting some of the benefits of going tiny, where to begin, and also why she opted to stay in a traditional home.

Sarah: Yes, Rebecca, there is certainly a lot to consider when thinking about tiny homes and living in one with a disability and the creativity [00:11:00] that’s involved. The article you mentioned really does go in depth with a lot of considerations so yeah, definitely check that out.
I do like the idea of starting fresh with a tiny home, and utilizing the experience of a designer who can really help a person make it accessible for their needs and personalize it. There’s some unique freedom in this process when you can really think about how could this space really, really meet my needs. Yet even designing these from scratch without a specific person in mind could be possible by using universal design principles to make even pre-built ones an option for people with disabilities.

As we know, universal design emphasizes the importance of creating environments and products that work well for everyone to allow them to engage in things that they want and need to do. It’s a big advocacy effort to put these principles into typical homes. But, what if we could do this to merge this into the tiny house movement too?

[00:12:00] We could create living spaces that were not only affordable and environmentally sustainable, but also inherently accessible to everyone. They could even be helpful with those in the homeless population as well. This is where the intersection of universal design and tiny homes could be incredibly powerful.

Rebecca: I couldn’t agree more, Sarah. So, Anisha, based on what you shared earlier, living tiny with a disability might sound impossible, but let’s get into some of the meat of this conversation and talk about what could be done with the design elements. The first thing you need to do is plan out the design and think through every element for how it could be used, whether it’s for a specific need or building it for a wide variety of people. This is an important step for any type of housing that we don’t want to skip. But as we talk about a lot on the podcast, we think every single area of the home is important and vital for each person living in the home to be able to easily access and do tasks. It promotes their independence and engagement in meaningful activities. In tiny homes, maximizing [00:13:00] limited space while ensuring accessibility requires a level of ingenuity and innovation that traditional housing design doesn’t require. By approaching the design process with inclusivity in mind, from the very beginning, tiny houses can absolutely be functional, efficient, and beautiful. We’re going to go through different areas of the home to give you some suggestions on how living tiny can be made functional and accessible. So get your note taking devices out listeners. We’ve got some tips to share. Anisha, can you get us started?

Anisha: So let’s start with the entryway, a critical aspect of accessibility in one of the most common areas that we run into issues with steps since many of these homes are raised to travel. For an easy zero-step entry, tiny homes usually need to be built on a foundation. One innovative solution that I’ve seen is the use of hydraulics to lower the home, creating a zero-step entry.

This works best for smaller homes that are on wheels, buses, and RVs. Additionally, ramps can be incorporated discreetly into the design of a porch or patio in order to blend seamlessly into the exterior. Wheelchair lifts can also be incredibly useful, especially when [00:14:00] converting a bus or van. As we know, privacy can be a big concern for those with disabilities as people might not want to advertise their impairment on the outside of their house with a big ramp and make themselves a target.
Discreetly built ramps are more easily incorporated into the design of newly built tiny homes than traditional homes, while wheelchair lifts are commonly built into school buses and won’t stand out at all.
Rebecca: Interesting points. Anisha. I like it. What else?

Anisha: Moving into the interior, the layout plays a pivotal role in maximizing space without compromising function and accessibility. In small spaces, an open layout is usually the preferred choice in order to minimize the number of doorways that need to be navigated. With an open layout, the only doorways that are actually necessary are the entry and the bathroom, and sometimes the back patio or porch space.

Sarah: I think that’s why my husband likes yurts so much. But I’ve even seen people separate spaces with curtains or pull-down dividers for privacy too.

Anisha: Yeah, that’s a good point. And you don’t actually always have to compromise on doors. I watched a video the other day about a daughter who built [00:15:00] her aging mother a wheelchair accessible tiny home, even though her mother doesn’t currently use any mobility devices. They really embraced the open layout in this home to account for any possible changes in function.

And at the entrance of the home, they left a huge open area separated from the rest of the house with large sliding doors that span the entire width of the room. This room had a few seating options with lots of open space that created an easy to navigate multi-purpose area that worked for her aging mother as her needs changed while also providing plenty of space for her young granddaughter to play.

The video is linked in the show notes. If you’d like to check it out, it’s a beautiful house and it will definitely expand your understanding of what tiny living can look like.

Okay, back to the layout. Careful consideration of furniture is very necessary to ensure pathways remain clear and unobstructed.
While in a typical home, you might place a couch or a coffee table in the middle of the room facing a TV, in a tiny home or bus conversion, furniture works better sitting against a wall to save space.

Sarah: Right. And that pathway needs to be large enough to fit [00:16:00] mobility devices being used and for people to move around each other. A lot of times 36 inches is a great place to start. But it depends on the people using the space for what amount of pathway width you need.

Rebecca: That makes sense. I also imagine that, as we mentioned before, it might be advantageous in a small space like a tiny home to use furniture that pops up, out, or down so that it can be out when you need it, but hidden away when you’re doing something else. Kind of like beds you see in really small studio apartments or on cruise ships. But this could also apply to desks that fold down from the wall or a TV that pops out when you want to watch it. I also think it would be important in tiny homes to get as much use out of anything in there as possible. So using one thing for many tasks. For example, having a stable work surface that can be used for food prep and also a computer task or something like that would be a really great idea. One important thing to note here though is that these conversions need to be easy for people to manipulate and [00:17:00] transform on their own.

It may not be intuitive for people if they’re not aware of where they are. And that’s, I think, where UD can become really useful.

Sarah: Yeah, most definitely. I think my favorite conversion for sleeping is having the bed on an elevator that basically lifts up the mattress to the ceiling when not in use, but can be lowered to a safe and accessible height when needed. And obviously, like you said, the person would need to know how to do that and where all those buttons were located.
But as you mentioned earlier, Anisha, when it comes to sleeping arrangements, many tiny homes feature lofted spaces that require stairs or ladders to access. While these save space, they’re usually the least accessible aspect of tiny living. Alternatively, you could incorporate a separate main floor bedroom as another possibility, but it might require you to purchase a larger tiny home frame or cause you to lose important floor space in other areas.

Anisha: Yeah, I’m really glad that you mentioned the [00:18:00] sleeping area. This is a space where people tend to get really creative, as it isn’t something that really needs to be accessible all the time, only when you’re sleeping. In addition to elevator beds, another solution for sleeping can be Murphy beds. These beds fold up into the wall to save space and can be lowered back down into a space that might be used for other purposes during the day.

One consideration here is the weight. For those with disabilities, lifting and securing a murphy bed onto the wall might be difficult, especially if you’re in a wheelchair. I found a great video of a man who DIY converted a bus into a living area and opted to utilize a murphy bed to save space. The issue that he found was that the bed was too heavy for him to lift back up into the wall from his wheelchair.

So he plans to add a hand crank to raise and lower the bed without taking a toll on his body. This video is also linked in the show notes. If you want to check it out. I’ve also seen people utilize hydraulics to help lift and fold away Murphy beds, which can dramatically reduce the amount of strength that’s actually needed to move the bed. Storage and workspace are another crucial consideration for the kitchen and work areas with [00:19:00] solutions like adjustable height counters and utilizing pull-down, pop-up, and pull-out organization solutions to get the lower and higher things within reach.

When in the design phase, you can plan for what small appliances need to be stored away and at what height they’d be most accessible to either store and retrieve or store and use in the same spot. Compact ovens, stoves, and even fridges can help to save space, but are also useful in that they can be placed in the same general area, reducing excess navigation around the kitchen to retrieve and prepare items.

Rebecca: That’s a great point, Anisha. It’s interesting that you mention compact appliances again, because actually, Sarah and I did a few episodes way back talking about different height options for critical kitchen appliances like ovens. We as OTs know that appliances like this can be tricky and even dangerous if someone has trouble with reaching. But, compact appliances actually may be a benefit here, in that the reach required to access a compact oven will be far smaller than that required to access a full sized one.

Sarah: I definitely remember those [00:20:00] conversations, Rebecca, and if you’re able to customize the tiny space with the appliance you use regularly, that’s ideal. Like in a normal home, if you’re only using one burner and the toaster oven or an Instapot, then why not do similar things in this smaller space and pick only what you need?

I’m also thinking about bigger things that we need to store for people with disabilities like an extra wheelchair, adaptive equipment, and many people keep a lot of extra medical supplies on hand. I’m not sure there’s a specific solution to that as everyone’s supplies are different and needs are different.

But figuring out how to utilize all the little nooks and crannies in the tiny home to potentially store these things are ideal. Maybe there’s already a great organizer you use for small supplies and medication for that can fit somewhere specific or integrate long drawers or strategically placed shelves in the walls for other items.

It’s possible to have a home for what you need if you plan [00:21:00] beforehand. As for storing an extra wheelchair or walker, well, maybe our listeners can chime in there. Maybe there’s a specific closet for extra mobility equipment. I’d love to hear your creative thoughts.

Rebecca: Our listeners always have great ideas, so yes, please, send them our way. But let’s keep moving around the spaces of the home. Anisha, what about the bathroom? It’s another quite critical piece of any home. What can we consider with going tiny here?

Anisha: In the bathroom, ample turning space, grab bars, and roll under sinks are essential features for promoting independence, as we know. However, it’s important to recognize that certain adaptations, such as a roll under sink, might impact valuable storage space. This is where pull-down and pull-out shelving come in handy.

Additionally, creating a wet room that allows you to use your entire bathroom as a shower stall instead of requiring a designated area, can be incredibly useful and saving space and is already a commonly utilized UD feature in standard homes. It can improve safety, save space and provide extra room for any [00:22:00] specific equipment needed in the bathroom that wouldn’t fit in the average shower stall.

Sarah: I agree. A wet room gives people room around the toilet and flexibility in the small space for people to decide how it would work well in completing bathing tasks in a way that makes sense for them.

I do think if someone is designing this on their own, and extra space is desired in the bathroom and not in the living room, they could always adjust the space according to their needs and desires.

Anisha: That’s a great point, Sarah. Let’s move on to lighting and electrical. These things should be easily accessible and provide a sufficient illumination throughout the home and climate control mechanism should be easily operated with remote. In tiny homes, the most popular climate control system is a mini-split, which conveniently can be mounted anywhere on the wall and is controlled with a remote, allowing for further accessibility and customization, depending on mobility needs.

Rebecca: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. In a similar vein, I’m wondering if, in spaces like this, it might be particularly useful to use things like Alexa or Google Voice to [00:23:00] control things like lights. Since the space is small, a person would certainly be able to speak loud enough for the device to hear them, and it might make it easier than having to reach for controls. On a similar note, in tiny homes, as in any home really, it’s important to be strategic about where outlets are placed to be sure that the locations make sense and are functional.

Anisha: Finally, one of my favorite things about tiny living is the outdoor accessibility. It’s just as important as the design inside. Decks, patios and gardens should be designed with universal access in mind, allowing residents to enjoy outdoor spaces safely and comfortably.

Some things to think about include a zero threshold entry to the outdoor space, a covering or awning for weather protection and non slip, easy to maneuver pavement or decking.

Sarah: Right. I love some of the solutions that I’ve seen with unique patio space for outdoor seating, raised garden beds, and even space to hang a hammock or a swing for sensory needs. Retractable awnings outside can even double someone’s living space with [00:24:00] additional eating space, a grill for cooking, storage for extra outdoor equipment, and even space to host guests.

Especially if you’re used to living in a bigger space, there are some things you need to consider if you want to go tiny. Anisha, what are some other things our listeners should consider?

Anisha: Great question. With all of the ways that tiny homes can be made accessible, tiny living might seem like the perfect affordable option for accessible housing for those who are willing to compromise a bit on indoor space and storage. Aside from the innovative solutions we’ve just highlighted, we wanted to talk about some of the wonderful benefits of living in an accessible tiny home outside of just the features that can be implemented within the home.

First, tiny homes can provide additional independence for those living with disabilities. Due to the lack of affordable, accessible housing, many people opt to live with family members to save money and for extra help they might need due to an inaccessible environment. Living in an accessible tiny home, provides a layer of accessibility and affordability that can promote [00:25:00] independence for this population.
Furthermore, tiny houses can be placed right in a family member’s backyard, making it a great option to provide a bit more privacy and independence while still having access to social and familial support.

Sarah: That’s a really good point. That reminds me of a Facebook reel that I wish I could find again, but it was about a single mom with kids who, actually had chronic illness. She described how she really enjoyed living tiny because it limited the amount of housekeeping and maintenance she had to do, and it really allowed her to conserve her energy.

She was able to locate her home close to her network of doctors and not have to pay a lot of money for rent at a local apartment complex. She was super organized, and while she had to downsize a lot of her clothes and other living items, she only kept what she needed for herself and her kids, making it easier for her to maintain the home on her own.

Anisha: Wow, that’s really incredible. And I’m sure that as someone who frequently visits the doctor, it’s a huge weight off of her shoulders to [00:26:00] not have to travel just to go to the doctor. Being close to medical, social, and community support is a huge factor that many people with disabilities consider when they’re choosing where to live, and I love that living tiny can give people the flexibility to do so.

I think that perfectly brings us to our next point, which is the sense of community that tiny living can bring online and in person. Being a part of the tiny house movement is also being a part of a larger community of people who share interests and values. Think of it like a big group of friends who share ideas on online forums, chat, and social media, and swap tips for cool new tiny living solutions.

It’s a great way to make friends, find inspiration, and get advice. In addition to the virtual realm, there’s also the concept of physically moving to a tiny home community. These communities can take various forms from RV parks to new developments designed specifically for tiny homes. In these communities, residents will often come together to share resources, knowledge, and experiences.

Whether it’s trading gardening tips, collaborating on a community project, or simply [00:27:00] sharing a meal together, the sense of community can greatly add to someone’s quality of life and help to foster social connections that aren’t as feasible in traditional neighborhoods. The sense of community brought by tiny home community living is valued by tons of people, but it can be particularly valuable for those with disabilities.

In a tight knit community like a tiny house community, there can be a spirit of inclusivity and mutual support that ensures that everyone feels welcome and supported.

Now, imagine a tiny home community comprised mostly of people requiring accessible homes and their families. Here, accessibility wouldn’t just be an afterthought.

It would be woven into everyone’s everyday life, creating a community where people don’t need to think about the simple things, like whether they’ll be able to enter their friend’s house for dinner with their mobility equipment.

Sarah: Oh, man, how nice would that be? If you’ve listened to the podcast before, you know we’ve definitely talked about that, especially with my family. When we hang out with friends or family, there is that added ease if we know it’s going to be simple [00:28:00] to get into someone’s house, due to my husband using wheelchair.

It’s just more enjoyable. There’s less stress. How refreshing would it be to roll up to someone’s residence, tiny or not, and just be able to go inside without any barriers?

This also reminds me of the idea of a group home for individuals that need support maybe from a paid caregiver or an aide. Just for safety, medication management, and providing support with meals. I could see this potentially happening in a tiny home community as well, where that caregiver is really close by maybe even living in their own unit and then popping over to others as needed.

Another component I was thinking about community when you were talking, Anisha, is people’s slant toward being extroverted or introverted.
If you crave socialization, moving your tiny home into an area with a lot of other tiny homes may be the answer versus off into a remote area somewhere. However, that could be [00:29:00] perfect for people who struggle with a lot of extra noise and like to be alone. It seems like there’s a solution for everyone here.

Rebecca: That’s a really interesting perspective, Sarah. And it kind of loops back to something that Anisha mentioned earlier, which is that there are a lot of different types of disabilities, as well as just personal preferences for how people like to live. And tiny homes can be a great option for a lot of different reasons. Now we know tiny homes can be innovative solutions to the accessible housing crisis along with so many other benefits. But now, Anisha, can you tell us about the costs behind owning or building a tiny home?

Anisha: That’s a great question, Rebecca, and it’s probably what most of our listeners are most curious about. Tiny homes and bus conversions can be much less expensive to build than your average home, especially when considering the additional costs of implementing accessible features in a typical home.

Regardless, it’s essential to acknowledge that there’s still a financial investment, especially if you’re hiring a builder or architect to take care of your project. This investment compared to the cost of [00:30:00] retrofitting a home or purchasing with UD features can still yield substantial savings.

These savings might allow you to splurge on both accessible and luxurious items that might be too expensive to install in a traditional home, such as a fully tiled wet room, adjustable height counters, or even things as simple as an automatic or remote-controlled blinds for privacy.

Sarah: Those are really great points. And here are a few other things to consider as well. There will be costs for land or renting space to park your home. Some people opt to buy land to build new, while others find it more financially accessible to build and own their home and rent the land. Additionally, if you intend to tow your tiny home, you also need to have a vehicle to do so.

That could add cost onto the total project. Plus, if it needs to be an accessible vehicle, then there needs to be considerations about that as well.

Anisha: Your method of building is also important to consider. If you want to DIY your project, it takes a lot of work, expertise, and specialized [00:31:00] tools, but it’s absolutely possible with the right resources. There are tons of videos on YouTube that can walk you through exactly what you need to build a tiny home or to convert a bus. However, it might require some additional research to ensure accessibility. For those looking to not start from scratch, look for some companies that have already designed some accessible options and see what it would take to make it fit your needs. There are a few companies that sell prefabricated, universally designed homes that might be able to meet your needs without any modification at all.

Another route to take might be buying a pre built, non accessible tiny home and retrofitting it to your needs. You could DIY or have a qualified person help. If you want to build or design with the help of a company, look for companies that are willing to venture down the accessibility route with you, or already have these concepts embedded into their process.

Working together to design the home gives the option of customization, which can be crucial for those with complex needs.

The article I mentioned earlier highlights some companies who are already used to crafting accessible tiny homes. If you’re interested in going this route, I recommend that you check [00:32:00] out her article linked in the show notes. I’m curious now that we’ve talked about this tiny home information, which direction you all would go in if you could live tiny.

If I were to live tiny, I would opt for building a tiny house on a foundation with the assistance of a builder. The flexibility of floor plan customization, plus the ease of creating a zero step entry that comes with building on a foundation is extra appealing to me, since I love the concept of an open layout.

I think the builder’s expertise would come in handy so that I don’t have to learn how to navigate the construction process on my own, but I could still put my input into the design. What about you guys?

Rebecca: Well, I think everything you just said makes sense, especially about working with a builder who has expertise in the construction process. But I think you’ve thought this through more than me. I must admit that after doing this podcast, I’m intrigued by certain aspects of tiny living, like the flexibility it allows and the indoor-outdoor living piece. I’m still not sure it could ever be for me, but if I were to live tiny, I would definitely relish the opportunity to be very involved in the design [00:33:00] process, like you, Anisha. Also, as an organizational nerd, I would get really excited by all the creative ways we could figure out how to keep things in place and tidy. What about you, Sarah?

Sarah: Yeah, I think that would be the biggest factor for me is things in place and tidy, but that minimalism piece would be really hard as well. There are so many factors, but for me, I think, like I said earlier, I think I’d probably go for a yurt just for that open-concept idea. And the ability to have some creative options for each space of the home.
Especially with an outdoor space. I really kind of imagine that large outdoor multi-purpose deck. I definitely wouldn’t do a DIY. I’d hire someone to help us through figuring out those, options, and some of that labor, but if we had unlimited funds, I think probably an RV. I also think that my husband would enjoy driving that RV around.

But the bus conversions are really cool too. I, we would just have [00:34:00] to figure out how to make it all work with a wheelchair user and a preschooler to think about. So I think it would be pretty neat to think about how we could all live comfortably in a smaller space.

Anisha: Ultimately, regardless of how you choose to build your home or where you choose to park it, the key is to find the right balance between accessibility, affordability and practicality, which can always be achievable with the right dedication and some creativity.

The tiny house movement is already well established, but there’s an opportunity to pave the way for a new chapter: one that prioritizes accessible tiny homes. By shifting the focus to accessible solutions for tiny living, we could address the ever growing issue of the accessible housing crisis, create supportive communities for those with disabilities, and improve independence for individuals who have spent most of their life dependent on others because of inaccessible environments.

We hope that you learned something new from listening to our podcast today and that we can inspire some people to consider all of the alternative options for accessible housing that might not be as out of reach as you might think.

Sarah: Thanks [00:35:00] for listening to Good Fit Poor Fit. If you want to learn more… first, find more episodes with transcripts and show notes at goodfitpoorfit.com. Don’t forget to subscribe! Second, check out our courses at go.universaldesign.org.
We cover housing topics like advocacy, collaboration, home modification, universal design and task adaptations. Lastly, if you have questions or topics you’d like us to discuss, email us at [email protected]. Thanks for fitting us into your day.


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