Inclusion by Design: Accessible Housing and the Mobility Impaired

95 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2008

See all articles by Robin Paul Malloy

Robin Paul Malloy

Syracuse University College of Law

Date Written: November 17, 2008


In the midst of pervasive national efforts at improving accessibility to public places for people with disabilities, there is no national design standard for making single-family residential housing accessible to the mobility impaired. As a consequence, the mobility impaired often find that they are unable to safely and easily visit the homes of family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues because their housing is designed with exclusionary and unsafe features - features that would not be permitted if the property were a public place, a place of public accommodation, or publicly funded housing.

This article questions the difference in inclusive design requirements as between public places and private homes. In so doing, it suggests that the difference rests upon two fundamental misunderstandings. The first is based on a failure to appreciate the public nature of private housing, and the second involves misperceptions concerning the ability (inability) of individuals to bargain for socially optimal outcomes in the market for private residential homes. In response to these conclusions the article supports a national inclusive design standard for all new single-family residential housing.

In advancing the argument for a national standard of inclusive design in single-family residential housing, the article proceeds in several steps. First, it provides a brief introduction to the current law on physical accessibility to property. Second, it explains two competing standards of inclusion for residential housing design; Universal Design and Visitability. Third, it provides information on the scope of the problem by exploring the demographics of mobility impairment. Fourth, it addresses the quasi-public character of private housing as part of our national housing stock. Fifth, it discusses local and national mechanisms that can be used to increase the national stock of housing with inclusive design features. And sixth, it addresses the tension between improving housing accessibility and maintaining its affordability.

Keywords: Disability, Housing, Property, Land Use, Zoning, Markets, Economics

JEL Classification: A10, K10, K12

Suggested Citation

Malloy, Robin Paul, Inclusion by Design: Accessible Housing and the Mobility Impaired (November 17, 2008). Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 60, No. 4, Available at SSRN:

Robin Paul Malloy (Contact Author)

Syracuse University College of Law ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States
315-443-3559 (Phone)
315-443-4141 (Fax)

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