How Small & Tiny Homes Can Meet Accessibility Standards

by Dandeneau Team Real Estate 05/24/2021

Image by Anna Armbrust from Pixabay


The conventional thinking that accessible homes require significant square footage to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers runs contrary to small and tiny house floor plans. Many of these affordable new construction houses are ideally suited for people with physical limitations. Modestly-sized home plans reduce the amount of space people have to navigate.

When designed with an eye on accessibility and space efficiency, small and tiny homes are also a wonderful option for people on fixed incomes. Contractors and potential homebuyers who use wheelchairs, walkers or have difficulty reaching objects at heights may want to consider accessible small homes.

How Can A Small Home Meet ADA Standards?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes building code guidelines that increase accessibility in a wide range of areas. These include entranceways, countertops, open pathways and bathroom amenities, among many others. A small house typically runs between 600 and 1,200 square feet, although no hard-and-fast rule exists, making it easy to modify for increased accessibility.  

New construction small houses may have 2-3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Traditional layouts often divide each room with narrow interior doors that make many feel claustrophobic. But reimagining small house plans through the accessibility lens may make them more palatable for wide-reaching potential homebuyers and people with mobility challenges alike. These are floor plan modifications that can transition a living space to an accessible one.

  • Merge Rooms: Open floor plans generally merge spaces such as kitchens, dining and living rooms. This concept is easy to integrate into small houses that often require fewer load-bearing walls. Combining these three rooms into an open space can make more than half of the house accessible by eliminating narrow doorways.
  • Modified Room Openings: Some public buildings meet ADA guidelines by eliminating doors to bathrooms and other areas. This strategy can be employed in small homes as well. By building an open entrance that employs a wall or barrier for privacy, someone who uses a wheelchair or walker can follow the doorless pathway. They do not have to deal with thresholds, knobs or doors swinging closed.
  • Outdoor Living Spaces: Deck and patio ingress and egress present a significant accessibility challenge. Sliding glass doors often have wide lips to overcome. Other exterior doors generally use thick thresholds. One modification that can make decks and patios accessible is to build them level with the interior floor. Install French or floor-grade doors without lips and thresholds. In terms of deterring weather, consider a roof or awning.

These concepts are viable ways to transition small homes into accessible ones. Building on these same architectural design ideas, tiny houses are tailormade for accessible modifications.

Rethinking Tiny Homes As Accessible Living Spaces

The tiny home trend has captured the imagination of people with modest space needs and incomes. Efficient living also seems to attract people who might otherwise build big houses. That being said, these one and two-room homes are usually 600 square feet or smaller. Seemingly minor blueprint adjustments can make them increasingly accessible.

  • Countertops & Appliances: Space constraints in tiny houses often require builders to place countertops and appliances around a room's perimeter. Employ a wall-mounted design at an ADA-guided height rather than on cabinets is one accessibility solution. People who use wheelchairs have room to move about underneath, and those without limitations may use the space for storage.
  • Smart Technology: Tiny homes sometimes place light switches and other electrical devices in awkward to reach places. Smart technology allows occupants to use remote devices and voice control.

The fundamental idea behind these small and tiny home modifications is that less square footage can be a new construction advantage. Builders and potential homeowners may find that ADA-guided mindset makes small and tiny homes feel roomier.

About the Author
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Dandeneau Team Real Estate

A Commitment to Excellence! Respected for their in-depth knowledge of the marketplace and an instinctive ability to understand a client's needs, Steve & Enza provide local perspective in addition to current market trends when working with buyers & sellers in Central Connecticut. They love meeting new people and asking them questions in order to find mutual interest and build rapport.