S.601 Visitability Bill

S.601: The Thanksgiving Bill

A Study Commission on Basic Home Access, Making Housing in Massachusetts More Visitable

Lead Sponsor: Senator Patricia Jehlen

Over 10% of the population has difficulty walking or using stairs. However, the typical home contains physical barriers that pose problems for those with limited mobility. In fact, over the useful life of a single or two family home, there is a 90% probability that someone with a disabilitiy will live or visit there.

Our current housing supply makes it hard for families that include a person with limited mobility to find a home without paying for expensive improvements. Even after adapting a home to meet their needs, they will find houses nearby typically contain barriers to entry, which severely limit a person’s ability to engage and visit with family and friends. Things taken for granted, like attending Thanksgiving dinner at a relative’s house or going to a friend’s house, are nearly impossible for those with mobility impairments.

Visitable homes allow seniors, returning veterans with disabilities, and others with limited mobility to avoid isolation and live in an engaged lifestyle with the ability to visit friends, family and neighbors.

What Make a Home Visitable?

  • At least one zero-step entry
  • 32″ wide doorway
  • a bathroom on the ground floor

Ensuring that more houses built in the future have those three simple design elements can make an astonishing difference to someone with a mobility impairment. S.601 creates a special commission to study home visitability standards and make recommendations about increasing the availability and inclusiveness of the Commonwealth’s housing stock. It will be composed of stakeholders, including homebuilders, government officials, elected officials, architects and advocates and be charged with reviewing the relevant information, including best practices and the experiences in other states, before making policy recommendations.

Eight states and almost 50 local governments have already taken steps to avoid such barriers at little or no added cost by adopting a visitability policy that applies to new construction single family homes. Similar measures taken for new housing in the Commonwealth could yield 150,000 new homes that are visitable over a 10 year period.

For more information call Senator Jehlen’s office at (617) 722-1578 or email either;

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