Designing a space that's handicapped/disabled accessible

If they were comparable price then the AirBnB would be better quality and if they were comparable quality then the AirBnB would be cheaper. But I still prefer hotels. Mostly because I am disabled and need a chair in the shower or fold out seat. I can provide these at my own AirBnB (as well as bath seat and chair over toilet, and numerous walkers, walking sticks, wheelchairs etc) but most hosts don’t and “wheelchair accessible” doesn’t cover it.

Could I ask you a question @JamJerrupSunset? We are currently preparing a second apartment that will soon become a rental. Our existing rental is upstairs so obviously not suitable for anyone with mobility problems but the new one is on the ground floor. There are no stairs to the new apartment but there’s a very short ramp on the path which would be okay for wheelchair users. (Parking can be arranged just twenty paces away from the front door).

However, there is a small step up (7 inches) to enter the apartment and the door is only 30 inches wide. I can see no way of adding a ramp to that step and I’m guessing that the door would be too narrow to allow a wheelchair to enter?

The apartment has other advantages for a wheelchair-using or restricted mobility guest but the step up, and the width of the door are probably a problem? What do you think?


30" is simply not wide enough for a standard wheelchair. In fact, many current wheelchairs require 42" clearance, but 36" is the minimum. That doesn’t mean that the mobility challenged can’t use your space, but they would have to be able to navigate that 7" step and get through the front door on their own power.

That doesn’t mean the layout once you are inside the unit can’t be a selling point, but I don’t think you could mark it as handicap accessible with those two obstacles.


Thanks! I certainly couldn’t imagine a wheelchair getting through that tiny door. (Even my other half has a problem with a 30 inch door if he’s carrying anything! :slight_smile: )

It’s such a shame but the step and the door can’t be changed. The property has a ramp down to the dock which would work for wheelchairs and a taller than average toilet (which I’m told is better for people with mobility issues) but maybe we have to spell it out accurately in the listing.

And it is more complicated than that. Is the sink low enough that someone at wheelchair height can use it? Are there handrails by the toilet and in the bath at the proper heights… the list of requirements is really long, and don’t even start on what you would need to make the kitchen useable at wheelchair height.

There are many websites devoted to this stuff which should give you some ideas of how to make this unit mobility-reduced friendly, but wheelchair restricted users won’t fair well in a unit that hasn’t been retrofitted in some significant ways. Search for “aging in place” and “renovation” to get some ideas of what you can do.


Yes this is true. I stayed with a friend who is a wheelchair user and everything was modified. Lots of wide open space for a wheelchair to turn freely, but also everything at a lower level than you’d normally see it.

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Thanks @smtucker and @Zandra ! This is just the sort of info I was looking for.

Yes, we have handrails (not yet fitted as the contractors are still working in there). The bathroom is certainly too small to accommodate a wheelchair but the floors are tiled and uninterrupted by rugs that could cause someone with restricted mobility to fall. Yes, the sink is low enough and the tub is very low too (the sides, I mean) so it’s easy for someone with limited mobility to get into it.

For my mum (not wheelchair but two hip replacements) I used to use a plastic garden chair under the shower which worked well.

Unfortunately, the kitchen is not suitable for a wheelchair user. In the UK I used to be a kitchen designer specialising in kitchens for the disabled (including sight-impaired which was tricky but fun) so I know how hard it can be.

We would only be able to accommodate people with mobility problems if they had an able-bodied companion.

Lots of ramps are too steep for independent wheelchair access. In metric measurements (sorry, I don’t do imperial :blush:) the following allow for independent wheelchair access:

  • Height difference 10cm / Ramp max.10% / Ramp lengt max. 1m.
  • Height difference 10 - 25cm / Ramp max.8,3% / Ramp lengt max. 3m.
  • Height difference 25 - 50cm / Ramp max.6,25% / Ramp lengt max. 8m.
  • Height difference more than 50cm / Ramp max.5% / Ramp lengt max. 10m.
    Also the ramp should be min. 120cm wide, free space between handrails.

During my architecture studies, I got the chance to use a wheelchair to go up a longer ramp, that was designed using the guidelines above. In a building of a state service that monitors accessibility. Well, I barely managed to get to the top of the ramp… It’s not because you see a ramp, that it’s usable. I sometimes have to point out to fellow architects that they are designing a slide instead of a ramp.

Accessible bathrooms and/or toilets are also much bigger than expected. I doubt your bathroom / toilet would be big enough to make accessible. And besides size there are loads of other guidelines to adhere.

I have occasionally designed accessible apartments in the past, and it’s really not the easiest thing to do !

Sorry, didn’t see your post before starting to write mine. You are already aware of the problems one faces when designing for wheelchair users.

We would only be able to accommodate people with mobility problems if they had an able-bodied companion.

Take into account that helping someone use the bathroom or toilet also requires extra space.

Yes the bathroom was actually just a huge wet room so a different chair could be used to shower in.


Good point. I’d never really intended the apartment to be used by wheelchair users but @JamJerrupSunset’s comment set me thinking. :slight_smile:

But I’ve been thinking a lot about the suitability of the apartment for a couple such as my in-laws. They are in their late seventies - she is able-bodied and active but he, although he can get around to a limited extent with a stick, has walking problems. Not enough for a wheelchair though.

Designing kitchens for people in wheelchairs is quite specialist but a lot of fun.

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A small bench in the shower that folds away against the wall, and a few handrails will be of service to lots of people. Also e.a. people recuperating from surgery… I think these are great things to provide.

In fact there are lots of smaller things a host can do to provide a better service to a wider range of people. One tiny example: Information leaflets in a print that is large enough for eyes that don’t see that well, and in a font that is easier to read for people with dyslexia.

Side note: Some people with walking problems will prefer a short flight of stairs to a ramp. So it’s always best to provide both.

Designing for disabled / special needs / older to me is also lots of fun, because it gives me the feeling I am really making a difference to their lives. It’s so different to discussing trivial things like e.a. the colour of the window dressing :rolling_eyes:.


I recently hosted a guest who has bone cancer. She stayed with me twice for a total of 5 nights. Her main question to me was about distance to walk from car to room and about steps up/down. So while my place is not in any way handicapped modified I have a few features that would be helpful for someone who is older/injured/slight mobility impaired. The parking is about 40 ft away. The step into the room is about 5 inches high. The shower is a walk in (completely flat/contiguous with the bathroom floor), has a handheld shower and a bench that can be put in there to sit down on. There is certainly a large enough group of people who aren’t “disabled” who could benefit from having these features mentioned in a listing if you have them.


My airbnb is not technically ADA compliant (the handicap sink is 12" from center to the wall and not 15" and the ramp is prob too steep) but was originally designed by my architect friend for a family member who used a motorized wheelchair. Large roll in shower with bench etc.
I expected handicapped guests but have not got a single one. All kinds of other guests. I think if you are handicapped travel is already complicated and you know a US hotel handicap accessible room is going to be kitted out properly. We once went to a “wheelchair acccessible” airbnb with our family member and had to move half the group to a hotel. I explained to the hosts in a private message that a ground floor one level apartment is not necessarily accessible. There were 2 steps to the door, raised thresholds and no grab bars in the bath.
So I’m thinking of listing on the start up site Accomable – anyone had experience with them?
Any of you differently abled hosts are most welcome to a free night at my DC metro area airbnb IF you will provide me feedback and suggestions!

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Which fonts are better for people with dyslexia?

There is one font, that I know of, that was especially created for people with dyslexia. I hope the moderators allow me to publish this link?
(I don’t have any financial ties to this company or benefits related whatsoever ! I don’t know the designer personally.)

As for the traditional standard fonts, there are also differences in general readability. Do a google search to learn more. I’m not a graphic designer and would also need to read into this :wink:. The books I have on the subject are on the other side of the world, sorry.


For any hosts who plan for wheel chair accessibility, don’t forget the bathroom sink. It can’t be in a cabinet. The pipes must be wrapped so that the guest doesn’t get burned by hot pipes touching their skin.

I am sitting here in my 28" wide wheelchair and measured my bedroom door and 30" is plenty wide. I probably go in and out of it 10 times a day and it is many year since I scraped my knuckles. For a wider or bariatric wheelchair you’d obviously need a wider door but the “recommended minimum width” is a nice to have rather than a necessity. I long ago stopped listening to disability “experts” telling me what I can and can not do in my own home.

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Just my situation first. I use a wheelchair in my own apartment, it has no special fittings and I do fine. Sure I’d like the kitchen benches to be lower but who has everything that they want in a home? I also use crutches and a hand drive car when out. In my Airbnb, downstairs, I get around with neither as I can stand up for a while if I have a wall nearby. Note that this took me several years of physiotherapy to get to this point, initially I couldn’t even walk.

My ground floor has a ramp (I put in in case I ever end up in a wheelchair permanently). I tick the “wheelchair accessible” box because it is but some people would not be able to access the toilet directly. I fully expect any disabled person contacting me to sensibly ask questions so they can decide themselves whether the space is suitable. For example even though I use a wheelchair I can stand up and walk into the shower (which has a chair) or to the toilet. I am okay about getting up steps, slowly, as long as there is a handrail. For people who use a wheelchair all the time any sort of step would make the place “inaccessible” so in terms of what I was asked a 7" step would mean it doesn’t qualify as “wheelchair accessible”. Depending though on the configuration of the door jam and ramp you might consider getting a removable ramp that allows people to wheel up.

A basic principle here is to assume the people with disability are capable of making their own decisions (it’s our scraped knuckles if we hit the door way!) and you should NOT under any circumstances start quoting building regulations and then telling someone it is not suitable for them just because they are in a wheelchair or mobility challenged. The best approach is to keep a list of features of your house such as door width (despite what someone wrote 30" is plenty enough for a standard wheelchair), toilet and bathroom accessibility, hand rails or not in the bathroom, access to cooking facilities (my kitchen hasn’t been adapted but I just got used to cooking at lower height and moved my cutlery draw down one).

Things such as whether they have a companion/carer with them is entirely up to them. Imagine being a 50 year old independent wheelchair user who travels around by car and being told you can’t stay somewhere because you don’t have a companion. Last year I flew to LA from Australia and caught the train to Albuquerque and drove back to San Diego on my own without needing a companion. My main “disability” is I am not used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road :slight_smile:

So by all means advertise your place as “disability friendly but need to discuss before booking”. A person with disability is not a child, we are fully aware of being prepared. Even when I am told a venue is “wheelchair accessible” I always ring up beforehand and ask them for details. “Well except for that step at the top” is a not unusual response.

I’ve actually never had a person with disability stay. I expect like me they prefer hotels where you know what you are getting. Also: shower chairs/benches. (Except when I’ve driven and brought my own in the car). You just have to put up with the musty smell of the accessible room which hasn’t been aired for 2 years since they never book it to non-disabled people because they’d rather stay at the Bates Motel than in the disabled room!!! :scream:


I don’t think this is relevant. Wheelchair users are no more or less likely to scald themselves on hot pipes than anyone else. Possibly less so since they are more likely to be looking out for potential hazards in a new environment. Anyway, should you even have scalding hot pipes exposed in the first place? What about leaving razor blades lying around on the floor?:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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