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Personal and Business Banking

Accessible Housing

StreetWise Resource Guide for People with Disabilities

  • Summary
  • Design
  • Adapting a Home
  • Funding

Accessible Housing

Comfortable, pleasant, and accessible housing is key to independent living. This guide reviews resources in three important areas for persons living with disabilities and their families. Adaptive design, adapting a home, and funding home adaptations or accessible housing are covered.


Universal and Adaptive Design

The goal of universal design is to create homes, workplaces, other environments, and products that are easy to use and attractive for persons of all ages and abilities. The principles of universal housing design may be applied to both new construction and renovations. Individuals with disabilities may also require specialized or adaptive design to tailor their living spaces to individual needs.

Design and Information Sites

These organizations and web sites provide information on the principles and guidelines for universal and/or adaptive design, and a range of educational and planning resources.

  • Center for Universal Design, part of the School of Design at North Carolina State University, is a "national research, information and technical assistance center" in the field of universal design. This site provides extensive information on "What is Universal Design?" It also provides information about fair housing practices, home modifications and accessible and universal design features in homes. You can also view examples of new homes built using universal design principles. The site offers a number of online resources and publications and links to other organizations.

  • IDEA – Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access. IDEA began its work based on the concepts of accessible or "barrier free" design and expanded to the concept of universal design. The center provides "resources and technical expertise in architecture, product design, facilities management and the social and behavioral sciences" with the goal of improving the design of places and products so that they are usable by "a broad range of people, including people with disabilities and other often overlooked groups."

  • Informed Consumer's Guide to Accessible Housing. These search results from ABLEDATA provides results for "legal and practical aspects of accessible housing."

Online Resource Guides and Databases for Universal and Accessible Housing Design

  • Resource Center on Accessible Housing and Universal Design. This page contains a listing of all of the resources relating to accessible housing and universal design that can be found at the ABLEDATA web site.

  • Accessible Design Resource Page. This page is one topic on the web site of Disability Informational Resources. It has links to a number of online and print resources. This service and the web site is maintained by Jim Lubin, a C2 quadraplegic. Makoa is the Hawaiian word for "courageous."

Adaptive House Projects Tips

In addition to information on accessible housing design, these web sites provide specific tips, guidelines and resources for adaptive housing projects both new and modified.


    This web site has a useful section on home modifications that includes possible modifications room by room.

  • National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Housing Modification

    This university-based research and advocacy group provides information including resources for designing and building housing or modifying housing that enables aging individuals and individuals aging with disabilities to live independently. Much of their information is useful for persons and families of all ages.

  • Home Design

    This section from AARP discusses universal design modifications appropriate for each room of a home.

  • Home Changes: Accessible Home Modifications Can Make Your Life Easier

    This article by a contracting firm specializing in adapting homes discusses the types of modifications possible, particularly for wheel chair accessibility, and provides links.

  • Easter Seals and the CENTURY 21® System's Easy Access Housing

    Through Easy Access for Easier Living, Easter Seals and the CENTURY 21® System have developed several easy-to-follow tips and educational pieces that guide homeowners in making their homes accessible -- for their aging family members, for children or adults living with disabilities, and for themselves.

  • Accessible Landscapes: Designing for Inclusion

    This design booklet, available online, covers the principles of accessible outdoor landscapes and provides examples of inclusive paths, plazas and furniture. Directed primarily to public spaces, it also has useful ideas for homeowners.

A Guide to Moving for the Disabled

The Closetbox resource guide has been created for people with disabilities and is designed to provide moving advice that touches on their unique needs when changing residences.

Home Modifications to Promote Independent Living

This fact sheet from AARP explains home modifications and how they can increase accessibility and safety for older adults so they can stay in their homes. It also addresses common home modifications needed for older adults and how to get assistance to pay for them.

Home Safety for People with Disabilities

Emergencies can happen at a moment’s notice. It is important to plan ahead so you are better prepared for any urgent situation. Guidance tips from the Red Cross are given for people with disabilities and their caregivers in managing communications, equipment, pets and home hazards.

Funding Adaptations or Accessible Housing

A number of programs exist at the national, state, and local level that provide design or financial assistance to help persons with disabilities either modify existing homes or locate and purchase or rent accessible housing. Identifying the programs for which you may qualify and which are available in your geographical location can be a daunting task. The resources on this page may help you get started.

Locating Potential Funding Assistance

Though grant, loan and assistance programs may be funded at the federal level or state level, application for and delivery of service frequently takes place at the local level. The following articles, even where written about a particular project or a particular state, offer an overview of the typical available resources and search/application processes.

Buying a Home:

Thinking about buying a home? See which Department of Housing and Urban Development programs might work best for you and your lifestyle. Have some questions? This site gives options to speak directly with one of their housing counselors.

Sample Funding Agencies or Programs

The following sites represent a sample of some programs available nationwide.

  • Fannie Mae has designed mortgage loan products to meet the special needs of people with disabilities or the needs of people who have family members with disabilities living with them. These mortgage loans include the Community HomeChoice program, which offers "greater flexibility in qualifying and underwriting standards; and acceptance of nontraditional credit histories." Community HomeChoice Loans are offered through Fannie-Mae-approved lenders and agencies or coalitions.

  • Rural Housing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a number of direct loan and grant programs to enable rural Americans to own a home or to repair a home. Several programs are specifically designed for persons who have disabilities, are elderly, have low income, or a combination of these factors.

  • On its extensive web site, HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has created a special section for persons with disabilities that provides links to relevant information about various programs offered by HUD.

  • The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance allows individuals to search its database to identify a variety of federal assistance for which they may qualify. The catalog contains programs that are available through state and local government and private agencies as well as direct programs.