Accessible Architecture

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Accessible Architecture

“All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Do you ever stop to think about how your house was built or looked around your town or city to notice the architecture of public spaces? Architecture is about so much more than just shelter. It is an art form and part of our collective history.

Too little emphasis is placed on architecture today, especially in terms of individual housing. But it doesn’t take an art history degree to learn how and why to appreciate it in our lives. For people dealing with the effects of chronic pain, architecture and design can actually be critical in making life more comfortable and reducing pain.

Accessible buildings

Did you know that efforts to make buildings more accessible to people with disabilities was actually brought about by the Civil Rights Movement starting in the 1960s? In 1968, Congress passed the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) that was designed to ensure that all people had access to buildings in their communities. This Act was also passed prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act that helps disabled workers on the job.

This is why public buildings are required to have ramps for wheelchairs and bathrooms that are accessible by everyone.

Adding accessibility to your home

While having accessible spaces in public is important, what about the ways you can make your own home more comfortable? Not everyone is going to need wheelchair accessibility but there are a number of average uses in the home that can be challenging for someone with a chronic pain condition.

Here are a few ways you can modify your current home or build a future home to suit your needs.

  • Eliminate or reduce stairs: Single story living is often the best thing for someone with chronic pain, especially in the hip or the knees. Keep this in mind not only for the inside of your home but also the front porch or in the garage.
  • Automate the home: Today, architecture, design, and technology all meet to give homeowners a better user experience overall. You can use motion sensors for lights or a mobile app to control many of the functions that will help you stay comfortable. Automatic door openers, key pad locks, and intercom systems are all good solutions for a more accessible home.
  • Ensure the bathroom is accessible: So many accidents in the home happen in the bathroom. Slippery tile and water can lead to falls and worse. Consider an accessible shower or wet room design. You may also want to install a walk in bathtub. Use benches in the shower so you can sit if standing becomes a problem. A raised toilet will also help someone with hip or knee pain.
  • Use lots of windows: Natural light is one of the best things to improve your mood and overall mental wellbeing. Natural light is easier on the eyes as well. You can add skylights, French doors, and plenty of windows to improve the lighting in your house.
  • Railings and handles: To prevent falls around the house consider installing railings, balance bars, and handles in strategic places where you might need a little extra help. These can be designed decoratively so you don’t feel constantly reminded about their purpose.
  • Lower the kitchen workspaces: Standing at the kitchen counter to prepare food can be a problem for some people with chronic pain. Create a space in your kitchen where the counter is lower so you can sit to chop vegetables and mix up a batch of cookies. This will also allow you to use the kitchen in the future if you are in need of a wheelchair in the home.
  • Redesign your closet space: If you have joint pain, reaching for hanging clothes or putting away laundry can be a challenge. Make sure your closet is easy to use. Hang clothes lower so you can reach them without stretching. Use bins or drawers that can help you sort and organize your items.


For some people there may eventually be a need for something more when it comes to accessible architecture and care for chronic pain and illness. MEDCottages are a great solution for short- or long-term care if assisted living or nursing homes are not desirable or a good option. This is a mobile unit designed to be placed on the land of a family member or caretaker and has the most up-to-date technology for comfortable and accessible living.

MEDCottages are designed to provide comfort and a pleasant environment for someone dealing with medical challenges. There are three models ranging from around 290 square feet to just over 600 square feet. All water and electricity is provided by the host home. There is a small kitchen, accessible bathroom, and bedroom designed for the best possible care.

A MEDCottage is also a smart home that can monitor the residents overall health and alert caretakers to a potential problem. It can even remind the resident to take their medication on time.

MEDCottages are also affordable when compared with a facility, buying a home, or renting. The largest model costs just over $60,000. The homes are mobile which means they can be moved to the best location possible.

Making life more accessible

It is currently believed that only 37% of aging adults think they will need long-term care. In reality, the number is closer to 69%. Long-term care or accessible architecture doesn’t need to have a negative stigma if it is handled in the right way and with great care. Individuals with chronic pain conditions can continue to enjoy independence through the way their home is designed.

How can you use accessible architecture to help you live more comfortably with chronic pain?

Image by ChicagoAtNight via Flickr


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About the Author:

At Holistic Pain, we have a passion for helping you and those who around you who suffer from pain find relief. Part of that passion extends to education and transparency. In our Holistic Pain blog, we focus on new research studies, along with our own tips, for maintaining and improving your quality of life, even with pain.

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