A new perspective on buying a home

Phil with his wife Colleen
Phil with his wife Colleen

By Phil Leffelaar, Program Coordinator at Accessible Housing

Over the past couple of months my wife and I have been excitedly searching Calgary in hopes of finding the perfect house to call our future home. This being our first time looking for a house to purchase, it has proven to be an exciting, challenging and eye opening endeavor. The elements that have made the top of our housing search list criteria consist of the standard things that many people are looking for; a kitchen large enough to entertain friends and family, a backyard for future kids to play in and a house with more than one bathroom! The one element that has unknowingly made its way onto my non-negotiable list is the need for our house to be “VisitAble”.

A few months back I had the privilege of sitting in on a presentation where the concept of “VisitAble Housing” was discussed. The idea of VisitAble Housing refers to a concept of designing and building homes with a standard of accessibility that provides easy access for everyone to the main floor of a house. Three of the basic features of a VisitAble Home include a no-step entrance into the house, a wider doorway and a main floor bathroom that is big enough to be accessed by someone using a mobility aid.

As my wife and I began looking for our future home, I quickly realized that Calgary homes rarely come close to meeting a single VisitAble element, let alone all three. In fact, many homes in Calgary are the complete opposite as most entrances require the ascent of numerous steps just to ring the doorbell. The neat thing about VisitAble homes is that they make everyday life tasks just a bit easier. Carrying those hockey bags out to the car, bringing groceries into the house or minimizing the required effort between the couch and bathroom on those days following your first day back to the gym are all made easier in a VisitAble home. Currently my family is fortunate enough to not have any serious forms of limited mobility. However, my short few years with Accessible Housing has thought me that life can change in a moment. With that awareness, I believe it is important to begin to look past our current physical ability and imagine how challenging simple daily tasks would be in our current homes.

Working at Accessible Housing has shifted the way in which I view the world and the importance I now place on creating spaces that are welcoming for everyone, regardless of mobility. I hope that Calgary and Alberta begins to embrace the concept of designing and building VisitAble homes.

So as my wife and I continue our search for our future home, having a home that is VisitAble is near the top of my list of requirements. If that means that we need to wait a bit longer to find the right house, I am completely fine with it. Hopefully the intentional steps I take today will make future life easier for both me and those I love.