Accessible Design in Public Housing: NYCHA Staff Training Program

Version 4.0 July 09, 2001

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Disability and the Environment
4. Design issues

For each type of functional limitation, there are different design issues that need to be addressed. The list below describes some of the most common design concerns in housing:

Functional Limitation Key Design Issues
Difficulty walking
  • Alternatives to stairs
  • Safe and supportive stairway design
  • Safe walking surface
  • Short distances between origins and destinations
Inability to walk - use of wheelchairs
  • Clear openings, passageways and doors large enough for wheelchair passage
  • Alternatives to stairs
  • Space for wheelchair access next to controls, fixtures and appliances and in front of doors
  • Space to turn a wheelchair around in rooms
  • Controls, hardware and storage brought within reach
  • Knee and toe clearances to approach fixtures and equipment
  • Protection for knees that have no feeling
Reaching limitations
  • Controls, hardware and storage brought within reach
  • Enough space to approach close to objects that need to be reached
Limited gripping ability
  • Devices sized to allow a firm grip - not too small and not too large
  • Low force required to activate a devices
  • Activation method that does not require twisting the wrist
  • Activation that can be accomplished with an open hand or balled fist
Low stamina
  • Short distances between origins and destinations
  • Elevators instead of stairs or ramps
  • If ramps are necessary, the shallowest slope possible
  • Low force required to activate devices
Partial loss of sight
  • High contrast on signs
  • Low reflectivity on sign surfaces
  • Large size type
  • Highly visible warning signs and symbols
Complete loss of sight
  • Hazard protection in path of travel
  • Raised characters and symbols on signs
  • Braille text as an alternative to standard text
  • Audible or tactile warning signs and signals
Partial hearing loss
  • Strong signal to noise ratio for alarms and telephones
  • Text as an alternative media
Total hearing loss
  • Availability of alternatives to telephones
  • Visual warning devices and signals
  • Alternative media where sound is used for communications, e.g. captioning on monitors