Accessible housing is housing that is designed, constructed or modified to enable people with physical, sensory, communication or other disabilities to enjoy full use of their home.
Multifamily housing properties with four or more units built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 are required to provide certain accessibility features, according to the Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988. Both rental and for-sale units are covered by the Fair Housing Act.
- Building entrance wide enough for a wheelchair (i.e. at least 32 inches)
- Accessible public and common use areas
- Zero step threshold into the unit or door threshold easily navigated by a wheelchair
- Interior doors that allow passage by a wheelchair
- Accessible route into and through dwelling unit
- Light switches, thermostats, etc. placed in accessible locations
- Reinforcements in bathroom walls for grab bars
- Kitchens and bathrooms that allow a wheelchair to maneuver successfully
In multifamily housing without elevators, only first-floor units have to meet these accessibility requirements. These requirements are covered in both the Virginia Fair Housing Act and the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act impose stricter requirements on federally funded and state and locally funded housing. Certain laws require different levels of multifamily housing accessibility in different situations. For example, multifamily housing in Virginia must be built according to the Fair Housing Act Amendment design requirements and the 2009 Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC), which has three parts: the Virginia Construction Code, the Virginia Rehabilitation Code and the Virginia Maintenance Code. The regulations specific to the construction of accessible housing can be found in Chapter 11 of the Virginia Construction Code, which references building in accordance with the accessibility standards of the International Construction Code standards at Section 117.1. If the multifamily housing was developed using federal, state or local government funds, it must be designed and built in accordance with Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards. Private multifamily housing that has areas available for public use must also comply with the accessible design standards for Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.