The concept of visitability has been around for over a decade. Visitability is about designing and building homes with basic features that make the main level accessible to everyone. At a minimum, a visitable home has:
- a no-step entrance (at the front, back or side of the house)
- wider doorways and a clear passage on the main floor
- a main-floor bathroom (or powder room) that can be accessed by visitors who use mobility devices
The Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, visitable housing (VH) task forces and others have been promoting the concept nationwide. Still, in Canada, VH hasn’t become as popular as in the United States or other countries.
To help increase the acceptance of visitability, CMHC conducted a research project that asked the following questions:
- What do housing stakeholders think about VH?
- What are the barriers to the uptake of VH in Canada?
- What would help increase the uptake of VH in Canada?
Findings from our research
Among the participants in the study, there was general support for VH. Participants even noted that VH makes life easier for everyone, not only those with mobility challenges.
Participants named a number of barriers to the uptake of VH in Canada. Among them:
- Limited awareness of VH
- Lack of market demand
- Developer/builder reluctance due to cost and risk
- Confusion about policies, contradictory policies, inflexible bylaws
In terms of increasing the uptake of VH, some things research participants thought would help were:
- clarifying and reaching consensus on the definition and criteria of VH
- developing and implementing strategies for marketing, education and advocacy
- conducting and mobilizing research
- fostering leadership and collaborative action
There are many great advocates of VH in the housing industry, the government and among consumers. Still, our study suggested that stronger leadership at senior levels and shared leadership between sectors may be needed to create broader change.