Does your accessory dwelling unit (ADU) need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? No. Under usual circumstances, your ADU does not need to comply with the ADA, just as the original structure of your home does not need to. Largely, the ADA is for businesses and commercial properties to make sure these spaces are accessible for those with disabilities. However, it is wise to consider the accessibility of your ADU. Depending on your use of the space, you may want to build it with Universal Design in mind. We’ll explain what that is below.

Why Choose ADA Compliance?

While it is not necessary, you can build an ADU to be compliant with the ADA. For those with a family member who has disabilities, it may be necessary to build with some ADA requirements in mind. Also, for those who wish to move elderly family members into the space, using ADA requirements is a good way to ensure that the space will remain accessible, especially as the person’s mobility or sight begins to decline.

However, designing the space to be fully compliant with the ADA isn’t necessary. Instead, you could adopt the principles of Universal Design. This is a design principle wherein designers focus on the accessibility of the space, from the flooring to the ceiling lights. The goal is to make the space useable by the widest variety of people possible.

Designing your ADU with Universal Design principles can make it more appealing to those who want to buy your home down the road, as they may be looking to move their own elderly family members into the ADU.

Universal Design for ADUs

When it comes to ADU planning, what exactly does Universal Design entail? Decisions that your designer may make to make your ADU more accessible could include:

  • Wider paths, hallways and doors to ensure wheelchair access.
  • Awnings or coverings on the front door to provide protection.
  • Non-slip materials throughout, especially at the entry and in the bathroom.
  • Non-threshold doorways to allow access for mobility devices.
  • Lightweight doors that are simple to open and much wider than average.
  • Remote controls for window coverings, lights,
  • Lever door handles over doorknobs so those with arthritis can operate them.
  • Matte and slightly texture flooring to add grip and prevent glare.
  • Solid color materials, especially countertops, allow objects to stand out for those with visual impairment.
  • Smart home technologies to automate as much of the home’s function as possible for those with memory issues.
  • Lowered cabinets and shelving to allow those sitting in wheelchairs to access them.
  • No threshold showers to prevent accidents and allow mobility equipment into the space.
  • Larger bathrooms than normal to allow mobility equipment to turn around in them.

Your Needs

While building an ADU to be more accessible is wise, don’t forget to be specific about your own needs for the space. If you have a family member with mobility issues or a disability, your ADU designer can help you create space that will allow them to function with maximum ease.