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This resource guide produced by the RESNA Technical Assistance Project provides information about assistive technology and home modifications. The guide covers definitions; laws and guidelines; initiatives from the Assistive Technology Act grantees; advocacy, financing, modification, and research resources; accreditations; online courses; and a bibliography. For more information about this product or other services of the RESNA Technical Assistance Project, please link to the project’s Internet homepage at or call (703) 524-6686.

Assistive technology and home modifications have the potential to increase independence, safety, and quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Many people may become trapped in their homes or locked out because of a disability that prevents them for being able to physically access their home. Assistive technology such as environmental control units that allow a person with a disability to turn on and off lights, answer the telephone, and open the door can increase independence. Home modifications such as ramped porches, wide hallways/doorways within homes, and bathrooms equipped with grab bars and bath chairs can provide for safety and independence as well as "aging in place" for individuals with disabilities and the elderly.

Definitions: Universal Design, Accessible, Adaptable, and Visitable

What is meant by these terms when discussing the housing needs of individuals with disabilities and the elderly?

Universal Design (UD): "The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." (Center for Universal Design, North Carolina State University).

Accessible design generally refers to houses or other dwellings that meet specific requirements for accessibility. These requirements are found in state, local, model building codes, and the regulations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standards A117.1-1998, and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines. These regulations, guidelines, and laws dictate standard dimensions and features such as door widths, clear space for wheelchair mobility, countertop heights for sinks and kitchens, audible and visual signals, grab bars, switch and outlet height, and more.

Adaptable design allows some features of a building or dwelling to be changed to address the needs of an individual with a disability or a person encountering mobility limitations as he/she ages. Essential design elements such as wider doorways and halls and barrier-free entrances are included as integral features, while provisions are made for features to be "adapted" (modified or added) as needed. To meet the definition of "adaptable," the change must be able to be made quickly without the use of skilled labor and without changing the inherent structure of the materials. For example, bathroom walls may be designed with additional supports for the future installation of grab bars. Cabinets under sinks can be designed to be removable whereby the storage space under the sinks are replaced for knee space for a wheelchair user.

Visitable refers to homes that are not only accessible to guests with disabilities visiting the homes of nondisabled hosts, but to the future needs of the nondisabled residents as well. "Visitability" is an advocacy movement proposing that when topographically feasible, basic access to all new homes is a civil right. Access features essential to visitable homes are a zero-step entrance, accessible hallways, and bathrooms with doors wide enough for a wheelchair user to enter. Such features make a home visitable to guests with disabilities and can help a resident adapt in his/her home should the resident’s needs change due to a disability or reduced mobility.

Seven Principles of Universal Design

  1. Equitable Use: Useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in Use: Accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use: Easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible Information: Communicates necessary information to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error: Minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  6. Low Physical Effort: Can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

Accessible Housing Laws and Guidelines

  • Fair Housing Act Amendments (FHAA) of 1988 (HUD).

In 1988, Congress expanded Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968—that prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin—to include these protections for individuals with disabilities. The purposes of the FHAA are: (1) to end segregation of the housing available to individuals with disabilities, (2) to give these individuals the right to choose where they wish to live, and (3) to require reasonable accommodation to their needs in securing and enjoying appropriate housing. This third purpose—reasonable accommodation— is essential in securing compliance with the first two purposes—nondiscrimination and choice.

  • Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines (FHAG)

To address the how-to’s in making reasonable accommodations outlined in the FHAA,
HUD published the FHAG on March 6, 1991 and the law became effective for multifamily residences begun or occupied for the first time after March 13, 1991. HUD’s Fair Housing Offices will answer questions about the guidelines at their Office of Program Compliance: 202/708-2618; 202/708-1734 (TTY). Questions and answers about the Guidelines are also available at:

The seven requirements of the FHAG are: (1) a building entrance wide enough for a wheelchair accessed via a route without steps (unless prohibited by terrain); (2) accessible public and common-use areas, (3) accessible route into and through all dwelling units, (4) accessible switches and controls, (5) reinforcement of bathroom walls for installation of grab bars, (6) doors wide enough for passage by an individual in a wheelchair, and (7) kitchens and bathrooms with wheelchair maneuverability about the space.

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 requires recipients of federal funds to make their programs and activities accessible to individuals with disabilities, including housing programs. This law applies only to landlords that receive federal funds, including public housing authorities (PHAs) and federally subsidized housing development landlords. Section 504 also requires that for new construction at least 5 percent of units have extensive access features for individuals with mobility difficulties.

  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

This part of the ADA applies similar requirements as that of Section 504 to housing programs funded by state and local governments and state-funded and local-government funded public housing programs and their agencies, including PHAs. It also covers private, affordable housing developments receiving state funding, such as housing developments financed by a State Housing Agency.

These housing laws may overlap in their coverage with some types of housing covered by only one of the laws, while some housing may be subject to two or all three of them. For example, Section 504 will not cover housing created by a town using its own tax money, but the FHA and the ADA will apply. Housing that is provided by the state but receives some kind of federal financial assistance will be subject to all three laws. Drop-in centers for mental health consumers and shelters for people who are homeless or victims of abuse are also covered by the ADA and/or the FHA. The law that applies depends on the funding sources and how the entities operate.

  • U.S. Legislative Accessible Housing Successes
    Small but significant legislative victories mandating access features in single-family homes have been made.

    • The Assistive Technology for Kansans Project (ATK) and the AT Access Sites are part of a grassroots legislative network that worked on passing the Kansas Visitability Bill, HB 2020. Effective on July 1, 2002, the bill passed the Kansas House with a unanimous vote on May 14, 2002 and the Kansas Senate with 39 in favor and only 1 opposed. The access features the bill requires are: a step-free entrance (side, back, front, and garage) on an accessible route; all wide doors on the accessible floor; accessible path within/through the dwelling's accessible floor; reinforcements of specific bathroom walls in the bathroom on the accessible floor; electrical/environmental controls located in useable/accessible heights/locations on the accessible floor. The bill covers newly constructed single-family, duplex, and triplex dwellings constructed with any type of assistance from the state or administered by the state. The state estimated that the total number of units covered would be approximately 40-60 a year. Passing the bill took four years of labor-intensive education and persuasion on the part of Kansas advocates, many of whom are members of the national organization Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing (DRACH).

    • Effective on July 21, 2001, the Minnesota Visitability Law mandates that all new construction of single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, and multilevel townhouses that are financed in whole or in part by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) must incorporate basic visitability access into their design and construction. The specific design elements include one no-step entrance, 32-inch clear doorways throughout the dwelling, and a one-half bathroom on the main level. The agency may waive the one-half bathroom requirement if it reduces affordability for the targeted population of the agency program from which it is funded. The agency may waive the no-step entrance requirement if site conditions make the requirement impractical or if it reduces affordability for the targeted population of the agency program from which it is funded.

    • In February 2002, in Pima County, AZ, an Inclusive Home Design Ordinance, originally called a "visitability code," passed. It requires wider doorways, levers on some doors, a zero-step entrance, and reinforcement on bathroom walls for future grab bar installation. The measure will be phased in over a 12-to-18-month period so people can plan accordingly.

    • In February 2002, the Naperville City Council in Illinois voted 7-1 to require that all new homes in the city include reinforced bathroom walls for handrails, wider doors on the first floor and lower electrical outlets and light switches that can be reached by individuals in wheelchairs.

    • In April 2000, Vermont passed far-sweeping legislation, making it the first state that required accessibility requirements to all new one-, two-, and three-bedroom housing units built on speculation in the state, including townhouses and condominiums. While the visitability feature of a zero-step entrance was not mandated, the Vermont Assistive Technology Project will collaborate with many state agencies to create and disseminate educational materials explaining the advantages of visitable homes, including zero-step entrances. More information.

    • Since 1999, Bolingbrook, IL (a suburb outside of Chicago), builders are complying with a Visitability voluntary policy, either because they have become converts to Visitability or because they gather that if they do not comply, the mayor of this town will use his already-demonstrated influence to effect an actual code change. Besides leadership from the mayor and support from a few builders, the other key ingredient in Bolingbrook's Visitability reality is the effectiveness of a local citizen, Edward Bannister, who has long been active in local and statewide civic affairs. He became aware of Visitability in 1997, sent for the Concrete Change video, Building Better Neighborhoods to use in his education campaign, and approached politicians to propose an ordinance or code change.

      Bolingbrook's achievement was, the first directive in effect in the United States specifying a zero-step entrance and 32-inch clearance through interior passage doors in every new single-family detached dwelling in a city or town. Additional required features include blocking in bathroom walls to support grab bars as needed; at least one bathroom/powder room, including at least one toilet, on the dwelling floor nearest to grade level; and halls at least 42 inches wide.

    • In Florida, a 1989 state law requires a bathroom door width of no less than 29 inches clear passage space in every new home that has a ground-floor bathroom.

    • A city ordinance in Atlanta, GA mandates that all builders of new single-family dwellings, duplexes, or triplexes receiving any financial benefit from or through the city (such as impact-fee waivers, CDBG funds, etc.) must meet several basic access requirements, including at least one no-step entrance and adequate interior door widths.

    • In May 1999, the Texas Ordinance required similar construction requirements for single-family housing funded with state or federal funds.

  • Housing Law in Great Britain
    The most significant housing law outside the United States is that passed in March 1998 by the British Parliament mandating that every new home built in the United Kingdom, beginning in late1999, have sufficiently wide halls and interior doorways, a downstairs bathroom, one entrance without steps except in the small percentage of lots where topography prohibits, and several other access features. For further information, see Concrete Change’s web site:

Housing Initiatives from the Assistive Technology (AT) Act Grantees

The 56 AT Act Grantees (one in every U.S. state, territory, and commonwealth) are funded under the AT Act of 1998 through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). The purpose of these grants is to increase the awareness, use, and funding both for AT services and products for individuals with disabilities of all ages. Several of the grantees have initiated housing projects in their states. Grantees working on housing activities, will share these with the RESNA Technical Assistance Project which will be posted on the Technical Assistance website. A list of all the AT Act Grantees are available from the RESNA Technical Assistance Project website at Below are listed a few examples:

  • Alabama STAR (Statewide Technology Access and Response) Project System
    This AT Act Grantee includes programs on accessible housing opportunities at its conference workshops, in its newsletter, and I&R. STAR seeks to create community interest in developing accessible and affordable housing. Mobile Accessible Housing, Inc. was formed from a consumer group and STAR-facilitated a partnership with Volunteers of America. In addition, a HUD Section 811 grant was obtained and a 14-unit apartment complex is under construction.

  • Assistive Technologies of Alaska (ATA)
    ATA assisted with funding sources for villagers to make their Mutual-Help/Northwest Inupiat Housing Authority program's homes accessible.

  • Arizona Technology Access Program (AZTAP)
    This project has published the Navajo Nation "Guidelines Documents for Contracting for Renovations and New Home Construction.

  • Colorado Assistive Technology Partners
    The Colorado Assistive Technology Partners site features an Adapted Home that provides house plans, independent living tips for cleaning and storage and for dining and cooking, as well as independent living aids for personal grooming and clothing and dressing.

  • Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative (DATI)
    DATI provided a supplement to the Delaware AT funding guide focusing on architectural barriers and home modifications (funded by Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council and Delaware Division of Mental Retardation).

  • Florida Alliance for Assistive Service and Technology (FAAST)
    FAAST provides training on the Federal Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, assisted Dade County in hiring a skilled AT specialist for accessible housing needs, renovated an accessible model apartment, works with Broward County Community Development for barrier-free housing, and offers a home modifications and universal design workshop.

  • Idaho Assistive Technology Project (IATP)
    HCBS (Home and Community-Based Services) Waiver for Older Persons is an ongoing initiative. This waiver is a Medicaid reform being implemented by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to establish an HCBS-waiver program that includes 14 new services for older persons and individuals with mental illness. IATP staff has collaborated with advocacy groups to successfully resist efforts within Medicaid to remove the broad definition of AT devices and services and home modifications that the project had added to the waiver application in 1998. The older person waiver program is being phased in across Idaho over the year 2000, starting in southeast Idaho.

  • Illinois Assistive Technology Project
    This project introduced legislation in Illinois that establishes an Accessible Housing Demonstration Grant that provides grants to builders who build "spec homes" meeting accessibility standards for individuals with disabilities.

  • Iowa Program for Assistive Technology (IPAT)

    IPAT will provide technical assistance to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to develop HUD-funded trainings for consumers on accessibility for multifamily housing. In addition, IPAT was part of a joint coalition, composed of Iowa disability and state organizations and the Department of Architecture at Iowa State University, to produce a guide, What the Law Requires: Accessible Multi-family Housing in Iowa. The guide was written for owners, developers, architects, engineers, builders, building contractors, anyone who designs or builds multi-family housing. The guide is available at

  • Assistive Technology for Kansans Project
    The Kansas AT Project and the Centers for Independent Living started a home accessibility grant program, Kansas Accessibility with Modification Program (KAMP). This project, begun in 2000, is aimed at all Kansans of all ages who need to make their homes accessible. Home modifications are limited to $5,000 for a homeowner and $2,500 for a person renting property. In Kansas, approximately 76 percent of persons with disabilities are unemployed or underemployed or receive a fixed disability income. Therefore, these individuals are unlikely to afford the necessary modifications without assistance. To operate the program, the Centers for Independent Living, Areas Agencies on Aging, and the Kansas AT Project staff are providing on-site evaluations, arranging for home modifications, and verifying the completion of work. KAMP also promotes independence under the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, which supports the most integrated community-based settings for individuals with disabilities.

    The Assistive Technology for Kansans Project (ATK) and the AT Access Sites are part of a grassroots legislative network that worked on passing the Kansas Visitability Bill, HB 2020. Effective on July 1, 2002, the bill passed the Kansas House with a unanimous vote on May 14, 2002 and the Kansas Senate with 39 in favor and only 1 opposed. The access features the bill requires are: a step-free entrance (side, back, front, and garage) on an accessible route; all wide doors on the accessible floor; accessible path within/through the dwelling's accessible floor; reinforcements of specific bathroom walls in the bathroom on the accessible floor; electrical/environmental controls located in useable/accessible heights/locations on the accessible floor. The bill covers newly constructed single-family, duplex, and triplex dwellings constructed with any type of assistance from the state or administered by the state. The state estimated that the total number of units covered would be approximately 40-60 a year. Passing the bill took four years of labor-intensive education and persuasion on the part of Kansas advocates, many of whom are members of the national organization Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing (DRACH).

  • Kentucky Assistive Technology Service (KATS) Network
    In March 2001, the Kentucky Assistive Technology Loan Corporation (KATLC) approved a home modification loan through a new program with the Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC). Under this pilot project, KHC has made $125,000 available for home modification loans for individuals with disabilities. The loans will be issued at a rate of 4 percent interest. KATLC will process the applications, help determine eligibility, and assist the applicant with identifying a qualified contractor, if such assistance needed. If the program is deemed successful at the end of the six months, it will continue indefinitely. This is a unique collaboration that greatly expands Kentucky's assistive technology loan programs.

  • Maryland Technology Assistance Program (MTAP)
    MTAP, in a cooperative effort with the Maryland Department of Rehabilitative Services (DORS), has produced the Maryland Home Modifications Directory. The Directory contains resources in Maryland for making a home accessible to persons with disabilities, including an interactive on-line database at:

  • Massachusetts Assistive Technology Project
    MATP offers a Home Modification Loan Program and provides technical assistance to the Executive Office of MA Health and Human Services on the design and implementation of the home modification loan program.

  • Missouri Assistive Technology
    The Missouri project passed state legislation establishing a low-interest loan program for purchase of AT and home modifications with appropriations of $500,000 state match. The staff are also involved with a Universal Design Housing Project, composed of applicable agencies and professionals, formed in 1998, to educate the public and encourage more new home construction utilizing UD features with media coverage. The UD Housing Project plans to conduct a groundbreaking ceremony for a UD home in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and members of the Kansas City Police Department. In addition, the project introduced a tax credit bill for anyone building a UD home in Missouri.

  • Nebraska Assistive Technology Partnership
    The Nebraska project provides assessments for viable assistive technology (AT) and home modification alternatives to increase the availability of alternative long-term care options for the elderly and persons with disabilities. In Nebraska, AT and home modifications are recognized by their inclusion as core services of the comprehensive long-term care system. If appropriate, AT or home modifications can be provided to keep the person with a disability in his/her home, living independently.

    Making Homes Accessible (MHA) is a conditional grant program in Nebraska that helps people with disabilities make their homes accessible via housing rehabilitation and new additions. A lien is placed against the property but is forgiven after five years. If the house is sold before that time (or the tenant moves out), a prorated payback is required.

    HomeChoice (funded through Fannie Mae) is another Nebraska program for single-family mortgage loans developed by Fannie Mae and the Nebraska Home of Your Own (HOYO) coalition to meet the mortgage underwriting needs of low- and moderate-income individuals with disabilities living with them.

    The Nebraska project also worked with the Developmental Disabilities System, the Governor's Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities, Commercial Federal Bank, and others to create this program. The Nebraska AT Partnership provides administrative and technical support to identify necessary modifications and costs and to ensure the property complies with housing quality standards and housing preservation guidelines.

    Lastly, the Nebraska project is working on the Homestead Exemption Act (expanding eligibility) definition to include more people with disabilities. The exemption will lessen taxes for homeowners and enhance their ability to afford a home of their own.

  • New Hampshire Technology Partnership Project
    The project submitted a proposal for $50,000 to the New Hampshire Housing and Finance Authority for home modifications for seniors wanting to remain in their homes vs. nursing homes.

  • New Mexico Technology Assistance Program
    The New Mexico project works on home accessibility in rural areas, especially in Native American communities.

  • New York State TRAID Project
    The project supports a home waiver-home modification process that is consistent across the state.

  • North Carolina Assistive Technology Project
    This project works with the Center for Universal Design (Raleigh) on their Habitat for Humanity project, develops public awareness materials for home modification funding options, and develops awareness by credit unions for the need for home modification funding.

  • Oklahoma ABLE Tech
    Through its Assistive Technology Lending Program, the Oklahoma project provides low-interest loans to individuals with disabilities or for persons who have a dependent with a disability residing in Oklahoma to purchase AT devices and services, modify equipment, or make adaptations in their homes, at work, in school, or in leisure activities.

  • Pennsylvania Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT)
    PIAT's offers an Access Home Modification Loan Program, administered by Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority, to provide interest-free deferred loans of $1,000-$10,000 for first-time buyers to make accessible home modifications. The project participates with the Pennsylvania AT Foundation that developed the Pennsylvania Access Grant Program ($1.85 M)-provides grants to eligible applicants (redevelopment authorities and municipalities) to help low- and moderate-income persons with permanent disabilities increase accessibility to their homes. The project educates the housing "system" and related stakeholders on the benefit and availability of AT to improve home accessibility for Pennsylvanians who are elderly and those with disabilities.

  • South Dakota Assistive Technology Project (DakotaLink)
    DakotaLink has published a Community Options Technology Project (CTOP)-final report on the cost-benefit data on home modifications vs. nursing home housing for nine individuals. The findings of the report are that nursing home placements can be avoided and/or substantially delayed through the use of assistive technology devices and services.

  • Vermont Assistive Technology Project (VATP)
    IN 1999, VATP initiated a "rental unit study bill" (S. 174) with the Vermont legislature to mandate minimal accessibility standards in all new 1-, 2-, and 3-family housing units built on speculation in the state. Known as the "Visitability" standard bill, VATP negotiated with their legislature to add language to the rental study that would include aspects of disability access. A 1999 task force was established to work on this study. The task force consisted of representatives from the Department of Labor and Industry, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the Council of Vermont Elders, the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights, the Vermont Center for Independent Living, the Disability Law Project, the Vermont Contractors Association, and low-income housing advocates.

    The agreements reached by this task force resulted in the passage of H. 612 on April 27, 2000. H. 612 mandates accessibility requirements for all new residential housing (including townhouses, condominiums, etc.) constructed in Vermont. Besides basic visitability features, the law directs VATP to work with the Department of Labor and Industry, Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and representatives from the homebuilding industry to create educational materials that explain the new construction standards and the advantages of "visitable" homes. VATP will be the lead agency in the production and dissemination of the educational materials.

Housing Advocacy, Financing, Modification, and Research Resources


  • Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
    451 – 7th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20410

HUD's People with Disabilities Site
HUD launched a new web site in early 2001 to better explain the rights of people with disabilities who are seeking housing and the responsibilities of those who house them. This site provides a wealth of practical information about Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The site contains information on modification funds, advocacy agencies, guidelines, disability rights in housing programs, accessible housing designs, model building codes, and a Q&A; section.

HUD also provides accessible housing designs. For a table with HUD’s 800 numbers for numerous departments, see: Below are listed a few key HUD resources:

  • HUD User
    P.O. Box 6091
    Rockville, MD 20850
    800/245-2691 (V);
    A source for federal government reports and research literature on accessible design and housing for individuals with disabilities and the elderly. Publications can be searched for and ordered from HUD USER or online.

  • HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Accessibility section web pages offer a wealth of housing resources, both for financing mortgages and modifying for accessibility.

  • Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)
    RSA, part of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services, funds Independent Living Centers (ILCs). ILCs provide training and technical assistance to Statewide ILC Councils, businesses, consumers, and others on independent living resources. ILCs help identify accessible housing in their communities as well as advocate for such. A list of ILCs is available from the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) project at: 713/797-5283; 713/520-5785 (Fax);

    Federal Grantees

    The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) funds two Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs) on Universal Design and the Built Environment and another RERC on Aging, all of which include housing initiatives. Their contact information is listed below; descriptions can be found on their web sites:

    • RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment
      North Carolina State University
      School of Design
      Box 8613
      Raleigh, NC 27695-8613
      800/647-6777 (V/TTY); 919/515-3023 (Fax);

    • RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment
      Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access (IDEA)
      State University of New York (SUNY)/Buffalo
      Buffalo, NY 14214
      716/829-3483; 716/829-3256 (Fax);

    • RERC on Aging
      Center for Assistive Technology
      State University of New York (SUNY)/Buffalo
      515 Kimball Tower
      Buffalo, NY 14214
      800/628-2281; 716/829-3217 (Fax);
    • National Home of Your Own Alliance (HOYO)
      (Health and Human Services/Administration on Developmental Disabilities), Information & Referral, 800/220-8770;
      Although this project is no longer funded, an I&R toll-free number and web site are still operational.

    • National Fair Housing Advocate Online (HUD)
      This site has a digest of current news stories and articles from U.S. newspapers and journals about issues on housing for people with disabilities and housing discrimination. The site also has current and back issues of the National Fair Housing Advocate newsletter. The Tennessee Fair Housing Council maintains the site (with HUD funding), and the site has a search engine. The web site has hot links for finding private fair housing agencies and public fair housing enforcement agencies throughout the United States.


    • Adaptive Environments Center, Inc. (AEC)
      347 Congress Street, Suite 301
      Boston, MA 02210
      617/695-1225; 617/482-8099 (Fax);

      AEC is a nonprofit organization offering consultation, workshops, course, conferences, and resource materials on accessible and adaptive design and accessibility legislation, standards, and guidelines. Among many federal and private grants and contracts, the Center has initiated the following two projects on UD: (1) Universal Design Education Project (UDEP) and (2) the Access to Design Professions. AEC sponsors, along with the Center on Universal Design, an International UD Conference.

    • Accessible Space, Inc. (ASI)
      2550 University Avenue, Suite 330 N.
      St. Paul, MN 55114
      800/466-7722; 651/645-0541 (Fax);

      ASI is a nonprofit organization that provides accessible, affordable housing and support services for adults with mobility impairments and /or brain injuries through the development, ownership, and cost-effective operation of cooperatively managed housing and supportive care services. ASI publishes a newsletter, Friends of Accessible Space that highlights accessible housing projects throughout the United States.

    • American Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing (AAHSA)
      901 E Street NW, Suite 500
      Washington, DC 20004-2011
      202/783-2242; 202/783-2255 (Fax);

      AAHSA is part of the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing (IAHSA). The mission of IAHSA is to promote quality services and products to assist the aging, frail elderly, and individuals with disabilities.

    • American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
      601 E Street NW
      Washington, DC 20049

      AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association dedicated to shaping and enriching the experience of aging for its members and for all Americans. AARP offers numerous publications and videos on making homes accessible to both the elderly and individuals with disabilities. (See Resources in Bibliography section.) AARP also offers a Home Equity Conversion Information Kit (D15601)--includes a 47-page consumer guide about Reverse Mortgages (RMs) called "Home-Made Money" and several fact sheets.

      Fixing to Stay: A National Survey on Housing and Home Modification Issues, an AARP survey, found 83 percent of Americans age 45 and older said they would like to live in their current homes as long as possible. However, almost one in four expect that someone in their household will have trouble getting around that home within the next five years. The solution may be the latest in universal design concepts, modifications that make the home friendlier, safer, and even more attractive. These elements are highlighted at AARP Webplace's(tm) universal design site. A recent addition to the site is the AARP Universal Design House Virtual Tour, which features an interactive tour of four homes.

    • American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)
      4720 Montgomery Avenue
      P.O. Box 31220
      Bethesda, MD 20814-1220

      AOTA’s mission is to support a professional community of members and to develop and preserve the viability and relevance of the profession. The organization has produced a video on home modification, Changing Needs, Changing Homes: Adapting Your Home to Fit You.

    • Association for Safe & Accessible Products (ASAP)
      50 Washington Street
      Norwalk, CT 06854

      ASAP is a division of Steven Winter Associates (SWA), a design firm with expertise on state-of-the-art design for individuals with disabilities and knowledge of universal design for advanced elements of buildings. SWA researched and wrote Cost of Accessible Housing in 1993 for HUD as well as several others on universal design and accessible housing.

    • Comprehensive Assessment and Solution Process for Aging Residents (CASPAR)
      CASPAR is an innovative and tested process for assessing homes and specifying modifications. It is based on the experience of EHLS and developed with a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH).

    • Concrete Change
      600 Dancing Fox Road
      Decatur, GA 30032

      The goal of Concrete Change is to make all homes visitable. Concrete Change’s web site also showcases pictures of the first accessible gingerbread house, built by the Disability Rights Center, Rochester, NY, as their entry into the 1998 Rochester annual gingerbread art display. The organization produces a video, "Building Better Neighborhoods."

    • Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force

      CCD is a national coalition of consumer, advocacy, provider, and professional organizations who advocate on behalf of people of all ages with disabilities and their families. CCD created the CCD Housing Task Force to focus specifically on housing issues that affect people with disabilities. The Task Force works with Congress and HUD to increase access to decent, safe, and affordable housing for all people with disabilities and to protect the rights guaranteed under the Fair Housing Act. The CCD Housing Task Force, in collaboration with the Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. publishes Opening Doors, a quarterly newsletter on these housing issues. (See below under Bibliography, Periodicals/Newsletters.)

    • Easter Seals
      230 West Monroe Street, Suite 1800
      Chicago, IL 60606
      800/221-6827; 312/726-6200; 312/726-4258 (TTY);

      Easter Seals provides several resources on their "Easy Access Housing" web page, accessed through their "Resource Room," containing information on adaptable and accessible housing, adaptation tips, a checklist for families, housing design, awards program, and other resources. All of these materials can also be ordered from the organization.

    • Fannie Mae
      3900 Wisconsin Avenue NW
      Washington, DC 20016-2892

      Fannie Mae funds several programs to assist homeowners in purchasing and modifying their homes, some of which are listed below:

      • Retrofitting Mortgage: An Underwriting Experiment (March 1999).
      • Community Living® Loans.
      • Home of Your Own Guide. 800/471-5554 (Publication LM133).
      • HomeChoiceSM: Homeownership for people with disabilities-An Underwriting Pilot Initiative.

    • Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI)
      121 Habitat Street
      Americus, GA 31709-3498
      800/422-4828 (800HABITAT); 912/924-6935;

      Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowner (partner) families. Habitat’s "First Ability House" was constructed from May 31-June 4, 1999 for an Alabama man who uses a wheelchair. This fully accessible house was conceived by Ability Magazine and sponsored by BellSouth, BellSouth Pioneers, and Target. The "Ability House" will be a model for future accessible Habitat houses.

    • IDEA-Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access
      School of Architecture & Planning
      State University of New York at Buffalo
      Buffalo, NY 14214-3087
      716/829-3485; 716/829-3256 (Fax);

      IDEA is dedicated to improving the design of environments and products by making them more usable, safer, and appealing to people with a wide range of abilities, throughout their life span. Home modification is featured as an aspect of architecture and planning. This site also hosts the Home Modification list information (send e-mail to with the message "Subscribe homemodifications-list yournamehere" and no subject).

    • Independent Living Strategist Association (ILSA)
      Louis Tenenbaum, President and CEO
      P.O. Box 60027 Potomac, Md. 20859-0027
      (877) 983-0131

      ILSA is the premier national organization promoting successful independent living throughout the course of people's lives. ILSA has broad membership including Independent Living Strategists, interested citizens, supporting agencies and nonprofits as well as businesses and industries and others whose interests are tied to successful aging and successful aging in place. This includes product manufacturers, home health businesses, insurers, telemedicine and durable medical equipment suppliers, consumer organizations, builders, interior designers, occupational therapists, etc. Independent Living Strategists assist people to identify issues and then recommend design changes and equipment to support beautiful, comfortable, and safe independent living. The strategist's work creates a bridge between the health and home industries.

    • Industrial Design Society Of America, IDSA-UD Special Interest Section
      1141 Walker Road
      Great Falls, VA 22066
      703/759-0100, 703/759-7679 (Fax);

      IDSA's Universal Design Special Interest Section has nearly 500 members, including elders, future elders, people with disabilities, and people who are "temporarily able-bodied." The mission of the UD Design Section is to promote those aspects of design that consider the needs of all possible users equally, regardless of age or ability.

    • National Accessible Apartment Clearinghouse (NAAC)
      201 N. Union Street, Suite 200
      Alexandria, VA 22314
      800/421-1221; 703/518-6191 (Fax);

      The only national database of accessible apartments, with a registration of more than 46,000 units, covering more than 155 major metropolitan cities.

    • National Association of Home Builders Research Center
      400 Prince George's Center Boulevard
      Upper Marlboro, MD 20774-8731
      301/249-4000; 301/249-0305 (Fax);

      NAHB is a special needs housing research group and information service, offering several documents on housing accessibility issues affecting persons with disabilities and older Americans.

    • National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI)
      4900 Seminary Road, Suite 320
      Alexandria, VA 22311
      800/966-7601; 703/575-1100; 703/575-1121 (Fax);

      NARI provides a guide for hiring a remodeler and lists of certified remodelers by region. Their web site includes UD articles and assistance in selecting a remodeler.

    • National Home Modification Action Coalition (NHMAC)

      NHMAC forms coalitions that bring together senior organizations, geriatric social workers, housing agencies, advocates for individuals with disabilities, healthcare organizations, builders, surveyors of building supplies, and home repair contractors and others. The project supports "Promoting Successful Aging in Place," to increase the availability of home modifications for frail older and individuals with disabilities to offer them the choice to age in place and the provision of care in a supportive environment

    • National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA)
      687 Willow Grove Street
      Hackettstown, NJ 07840
      800/367-6522; 800/843-6522; 908/852-1695 (Fax);

      NKBA provides summaries of universal kitchen and bath planning checklists and guidelines available under "Consumer Information¾ Design Guides and Safety Tips."

    • National Resource Center on Supportive Housing & Home Modification
      University of Southern California
      Andrus Gerontology Center
      3715 McClintock Avenue
      Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191
      213/740-1364; 213/740-7069 (Fax);

      The website is designed to promote the Center activities and staff achievements, research projects, published work and upcoming publications. It will provide a clearer understanding of what NRCSHHM is about, and our involvement.

      The Center’s mission is to make supportive housing and home modification a more integral component of successful aging, long-term care, preventive health, and the development of elder-friendly communities. The Center offers practical strategies and materials for policymakers, practitioners, consumers, manufacturers, suppliers, and researchers. The Center also offers online courses on home modifications and supportive housing designed for case managers, service providers, I&R specialists, occupational and physical therapists, and social workers. Students will be awarded an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California.

      A previous website is still active, only the title is changed to just "". It will continue to serve as an online resource to disseminate home modification and related information to a wider range of visitors.

    • Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
      801-18th Street NW
      Washington, DC 20008
      800/424-8200 (V); 800/795-4327 (TTY); 202/785-4452 (Fax)

      PVA provides publications covering accessibility, assistive technology, and adaptive design. Guidelines for kitchen and bath design are available on their web site.

    • Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April â
      (formerly known as Christmas in April)
      1536 - 16th Street NW
      Washington, DC 20036-1402
      800/4-REHAB-9; 202/483-9081 (FAX);

      This national volunteer organization, in partnership with the community, rehabilitates the houses of low-income homeowners, particularly individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and families with children.

    • Remodeling Online

      This web site provides an Accessibility Currents section on "Gracious Accommodations." The two projects profiled earned honors in the 1996 "Easy Access Housing Design Awards," sponsored by Easter Seals, Century 21 Real Estate Corporation, and the American Institute of Architects.

    • is a cooperative service of those committed to designing the American Dream for every American. This organization was formed when the Philip Stephen Companies, Inc. and HomeStyles, Inc. joined together. The site has people-friendly home plans and the resources needed to build UD homes.

    • Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc.
      One Center Plaza, Suite 310
      Boston, MA 02108
      617/742-5657; 617/742-0509 (Fax);

      The Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides state-of-the-art technical assistance and training to housing and human service organizations so they may achieve positive outcomes in their work on behalf of people with disadvantaged and/or disabled. In a joint effort with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force, this organization also publishes a quarterly newsletter, Opening Doors (See Bibliography, Periodicals/Newsletters below).

    • Universal Designers & Consultants, Inc. (UDC)
      6 Grant Avenue
      Takoma Park, MD 20912
      301/270-2470 (V/TTY); 301/270-8199 (Fax);

      UDC is a private architectural firm specializing in accessible design for the commercial and residential industries. UDC has been awarded several federal grants in accessible design, including a subcontract with the new RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment at SUNY/Buffalo. UDC publishes a quarterly publication, Universal Design Newsletter.

    State & Local Governments

    The following state and local government entities offer housing assistance: (1) Local Area Agencies on Aging, (2) State Departments on Aging, (3) State Housing Finance Agencies, (4) Departments of Public Works, and (5) Departments of Community Development that manage State Block Grant Programs. Information on these Block Grant Programs is available from Community Connections: 800/998-9999. Some of the areas Community Development Block Grants funds can be used are: (1) housing rehabilitation loans and grants for rental housing and homes; (2) new housing construction (only if completed by nonprofit groups); and (3) making buildings accessible to the elderly and individuals with disabilities. The following block grant programs are available at the state and local government levels:

    • State Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program.

    • CDBG Block Grant Entitlement Communities Program

    • Colonias Set-Aside Provision of the State CDBG Programs

    • John Heinz Neighborhood Development Program.

    • CDBG for Insular Areas.

    • Home Investment Partnerships Program (HOME)

    Accreditations in Housing Accessibility/Modification

    • CEAC (Certificate in Environmental Access for Consultants & Contractors)
      PRIME (Professional Resources In Management Education, Inc.)
      1820 S.W. 100th Avenue
      Miramar, FL 33025
      954/436-6300; 954/436-0161 (Fax);

    Online Courses

    • National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
      University of Southern California
      Andrus Gerontology Center
      3715 McClintock Avenue
      Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191
      213/740-1364; 213/740-7069 (Fax);

      Students are awarded an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California on completion of all four courses. Topics include: introduction to home modifications and prevalence, assessments, funding, accessing community resources, service delivery, techniques for contract negotiations, techniques for raising community awareness, and coalition building and many other lessons in creating healthy, safe, and comfortable communities.

    • Abilities OT Services, Inc.
      3309 W. Strathmore Avenue
      Baltimore, MD 21215-2718
      410/358-7269; 410/358-6454 (Fax);

      Abilities OT Services, Inc. offers a Health and Wellness Series for professionals and consumers, called "Quality of Life across the Lifespan: Accessibility Consultation, Environmental Modifications and Assistive Technology (AOTS-2000). The training program is a unique, interactive format focusing on the information and skills needed to provide accessibility consultation services. The course covers, among many other topics, Fair Housing legislation, functional and environmental assessment, universal design, home modifications, home safety, third-party billing, and consultation fee structures.


    Accessible Home Plans

    • Universal Design House Information Packet, AARP (1998)
      202/434-6120; 202/434-6466 (Fax); ( )
    • Facility Management Resources (FMR), Home Portfolio
      800/477-6904; 515/274-6904; 515/274-6975 (Fax); (
    • Products and Plans for Universal Homes, Philip Stephens Companies, Inc. in collaboration with the Center for Universal Design, Raleigh, NC; (


    • Accessible Connection (PRIME, 954/436-6300; 954/436-0161 (Fax); (
    • Alliance (International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing, 202/783-2242; (
    • Friends of Accessible Space (Accessible Space, Inc., 800/466-7722; (, free subscription.
    • HomeChoice (Fannie Mae, 202/752-7000; (
    • National Fair Housing Advocate. (
    • Opening Doors. (Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. & the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force.) (
    • Remodeling (National Association of the Remodeling Industry, 800/966-7601;
    • UDNewsline (Center for Universal Design. NC State, 800/647-6777 [V/TTY]; (
    • Universal Design Newsletter (Universal Designers & Consultants, Inc., 301/270-2470 [V/TTY]; (


    Hundreds of publications are available on housing for individuals with disabilities and the elderly. Some are free, some have a nominal cost, and others can be purchased from the publishers. Below are listed a few of the most recent. For additional publications, check the NARIC Search section under "Home Modification" on their web site: or call NARIC at 1/800-346-2742.

    • A Basic Guide to Fair Housing Accessibility: Everything Architects and Builders Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act Accessibility Guidelines, Steven Winter Associates, Inc., Available from or through the publisher, John Wiley & Sons at 800/225-5945.
    • Beautiful Universal Design: A Visual Guide (1999), Leibrock C. A., & Terry, E., Wiley & Sons, Inc.
    • Cost of Accessible Housing (1993). Steven Winter Associates. (HUD funded). (203/857-0200; (
    • Directory of Accessible Building Products (NAHB). Published annually with descriptions of more than 180 commercially available products designed for individuals with disabilities and age-related limitations. (301/249-4000; (; Free ($5 S/H.)
    • Fair Housing: How to Make the Law Work for You (1998). (PVA, 800/424-8200; (
    • High-Access Home: Design and Decoration for Barrier-Free Living, (1999) Riley, C. A. III. Rizzoli.
    • Home Planning for Your Later Years (1996). (William K. Wasch, Beverly Cracom Publishers).
    • Homes for Everyone: Universal Design Principles in Practice (1996). Steven Winter Associates. (203/857-0200; (
    • Retrofitting Homes for a Lifetime (NAHB). Outlines a process for remodelers and homeowners to work effectively with each other in assessing clients' needs. Contains an audit form to complete as a home is surveyed for modifications and design solutions to use once the audit is complete. (301/249-4000; (
    • Universal Interiors by Design: Gracious Spaces (1999), Dobkin, I, & Peterson, M. J., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.

    The following five publications are free from AARP, 202/434-6120;(

    • The Do Able, Renewable Home.
    • Home Safe Home: How to Prevent Falls in the Home.
    • Universal Design and Home Modifications.
    • Universal Design House Information Packet (1998).

    The following nine publications are available from the Center for Universal Design/NC State University, 800/647-6777 [V/TTY]; (

    • The Fair Housing Design Manual: A Manual to Assist Designers and Builders in Meeting the Accessibility Requirements of the Fair Housing Act, 1996.
    • The Fair Housing Accessibility Requirements: How to Make Them a Marketing Advantage, 1995.
    • Financing Home Accessibility Modifications, 1993.
    • The New Fair Multifamily Housing: A Design Primer to Assist in Understanding the Accessibility Guidelines of the Fair Housing Act, 1996.
    • Rights and Responsibilities of Tenants and Landlords under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, 1995.
    • A Blueprint for Action: A Resource for Promoting Home Modifications (August 1997).
    • The Universal Design File: Designing for People of All Ages and Abilities.
    • Proceedings from the first International Conference on Universal Design (1998).
    • Universal Design in Housing (January 1998).

    The following publications are free from the RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment, Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access (IDEA), State University of New York (SUNY)/Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14214, 716/829-3483; 716/829-3256 (Fax);

    • Automated Doors: Toward Universal Design
    • Architectural Barriers to Normalization: The Acoustic Environment of Group Homes
    • Hyperhome Resource: A Technical Information Manager for Home Modification Services to Older People
    • Bathing for Older People with Disabilities
    • Enabling Home Environments: Identifying Barriers to Independence
    • Enabling Home Environments: Strategies for Aging in Place
    • The Concept of Universal Design
    Additional publications from the RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment, Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access (IDEA):
      Technical Reports:
    • Accessible Storage
    • Accessible Cabinetry
    • Accessible Plumbing
    • Automated Doors
    • Home Automation
    • Home Modifications
    • Methods for Teaching Barrier Free Design
    • Toward Universal Design in Cabinetry

    • Primer on Accessible Design


    Fixing to Stay: A National Survey on Housing and Home Modification Issues, 2000, an AARP survey.

    The following two reports are from the Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc., Boston, MA and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force, Washington, DC; 617/742-5657; (

    • Piecing It All Together in Your Community: Playing The Housing Game: Learning to Use HUD's Consolidated Plan to Expand Housing Opportunities for People with Disabilities, (December 1999). Also available on their web site.
    • Priced Out in 1998: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities, Second Edition (March 1999).


    The first three videos are available from AARP, 202/434-6120; (

    • Why Move, Improve (AARP/Center for Universal Design)
    • Universal Housing, Good Morning America, Aired 6/8/99 (AARP)
    • Universal House Air Checks (AARP)
    • Changing Needs, Changing Homes: Adapting Your Home to Fit You (AOTA, 301/652-2682;(
    • Model Home Video: Home Modifications & Assistive Technology for Persons with Disabilities of All Ages (FAAST-South Florida Regional Demonstration Center & Stein Gerontological Institute, Miami, FL; 305/762-1465; 305/751-3189 [TTY]; (
    • Senior Solutions: Assistive Technology (Utah Assistive Technology Program, Utah State University, Center for Persons with Disabilities, 435/797-3824).
    • "Building Better Neighborhoods" (Concrete Change, 404/378-7455; (
    • Videos Project (RERC/SUNY/Buffalo, 716/829-3483; (

    The following videos are available from the RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment, Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access (IDEA), State University of New York (SUNY)/Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14214, 716/829-3483; 716/829-3256 (Fax);

    • Fair Housing Means Universal Design I, with an emphasis on bathrooms, VHS (CC)
    • Fair Housing Means Universal Design II, with an emphasis on kitchens, VHS (CC)
    • Searching for Universal Design, VHS (CC)

    Slide Shows

    The following slide shows are available from the Center for Universal Design, NC State University, 800/647-6777 [V/TTY]; (

    • Accessible Home Modifications, Slide Show & Script
    • Fair Housing Amendments Accessibility Guidelines

    The following MS PowerPoint slide presentations, on diskettes, are available from the RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment, Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access (IDEA), State University of New York (SUNY)/Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14214, 716/829-3483; 716/829-3256 (Fax);

    • Universal Design Case Study: Accessible Cabinetry
    • Universal Design Case Study: Accessible Plumbing
    • Universal Design Case Study: Home Automation
    • Universal Design Case Study: Home Modifications
    • Universal Design Case Study: Accessible Appliances

    The RESNA Technical Assistance project is an activity funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (Grant No. H224B020001). The information contained herein does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of NIDRR/ED or RESNA and no official endorsement of the information should be inferred. Produced by the RESNA Technical Assistance Project, 1700 North Moore Street, Suite 1540, Arlington, VA 22209. Available in alternative formats.

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The National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership is a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and RESNA. The grant (Grant #H224B050003; CFDA 84.224B) is funded under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended and administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

This website is developed with grant funds. The information contained on these pages does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education or the Grantee and no official endorsement of the information should be inferred.