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Universal Design: Zero Barrier Entry

So you’ve found your property and know that you want to build a Universally Designed structure on it. Maybe you’re building your custom dream home and want to know that you’re going to be able to stay in it as you age. Maybe you’ve just been told you have a progressive condition and you’re going to eventually need a wheelchair, will eventually lose your hearing or will slowly go blind over the next few years. Maybe you have a young child with a disability who will eventually want to have independence within their home. Or maybe you’ve lived with these types of disabilities for years and are simply counting down the days until your home is fully functional for yourself.

Unless you’re in the final category, it’s likely that while you may be thinking about accessibility, the nitty gritty details of what design elements will matter may or may not be front and centre in your mind. Building on the Seven Principles of Universal Design, over the next few weeks we’re going to dig in to some specific design examples. First up – Zero Barrier Entry.

Zero Barrier Entry

Anyone who has ever tried to bump a stroller up six steps, move a heavy piece of furniture up to a second story entrance or help their chihuahua in and out of the house will know that entries to homes can be a huge barrier for everyone involved. If you add in having Grandma to visit at 92 or helping your partner back from the hospital after breaking their leg you start to get the picture. Zero barrier entry makes sure that everyone can get in and out of the house easily and safely. Zero barrier entry creates Equitable Use (Principle 1), is Simple and Easy to Use (Principle 3), provides Perceptible Information (Principle 4), good Tolerance for Error (Principle 5), and Low Physical Effort (Principle 6).

Design requirements:

  • At grade entry for all units OR
  • Ramped entry of 36″ (minimum) to 48″ (preferable) width for Size and Space for Approach and Use (Principle 7) at a 1:12 ratio slope with railings on BOTH sides for Equitable Use (Principle 1) OR Porch Lift/Elevator Entry (may be necessary for building with entries at different grade levels, or for properties where size is a constraint)
  • Optional: ramp/elevator WITH stepped entry for Flexibility in Use (Principle 2)
  • Zero barrier door sill that opens 36″ (minimum) to 48″ (preferable) wide for Size and Space for Approach and Use (Principle 7)
  • Minimize clutter around the door (Principle 7) and a bench beside the door for Equitable Use (Principle 1) to place packages on while opening door, or sit on while waiting for the door to be answered.
  • Use lever handles in contrasting colours to the door for Equitable Use (Principle 1) for ease of opening.
  • Covered porch to allow residents and visitors time to enter and exit the building at their own pace in inclement weather creating Equitable Use (Principle 1).

Other blog posts in this series:

The Case for Universally Designed Communities

“Can’t You Just Add An Elevator?”

Universal Design: Property Considerations

The Seven Principles of Universal Design

Universal Design: Zero Barrier Entries

Universal Design: Bathrooms

6 responses to “Universal Design: Zero Barrier Entry”

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About the program

In 2017 I was newly self-diagnosed with atypical autism, struggling with burnout, and striking out when it came to therapists who could address the issues I was facing. At the same time, I was building skills around life coaching, shame reduction, and trauma-informed therapy for work. Gradually I realized that what I needed – an embodied, autonomous, agency-driven coaching approach to unmasking – was not something I was going to find “out there”, but something I was going to need to create if I wanted to recover my life. This was the moment the Values Based Integration Process was born.

Having developed the program for myself – and having seen the incredible results it brought in my own life – I began to use it with coaching clients. The results were out of this world!

After conversations with Dr. Devon Price, the technique was featured in his book Unmasking Autism. With it, came interest in the technique and the decision was made to begin training coaches and therapists to help make this toolkit more readily available.


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