As we grow up, grow older or welcome new people into our homes, our needs as homeowners can change. A house that is designed, built or renovated according to the principles of universal design can help your home keep pace with changes in your family’s needs….and create a safer and more accessible environment for anyone who lives or visits there, regardless of their age or physical ability.

To help you make sure your is accessible to everyone, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers the following tips on what you should consider when creating or renovating your living space:

If you’re designing a new home or planning significant renovations, open-concept floor plans are generally more accessible than floor plans with smaller enclosed rooms.

Consideration should also be given to the location of each room. For example, it’s a good idea to keep the kitchen close to the dining area, and noisy spaces (such as a TV or recreation room) away from quiet spaces (such as bedrooms).

To make your home easier to access by people with mobility impairments, install a zerostep entry and make at least one half-bathroom accessible to someone in a wheelchair. You should also consider whether you need doors in all rooms and, where they are needed, and what type they should be. All main interior doors should have an opening width of at least 810 mm (32 inches).

If someone in a wheelchair, walker or scooter lives in or regularly visits your home, your hallways should be at least 1220 mm (48 inches) wide, with a turn-around space at all entrance areas, foyers and at the ends of hallways. Ideally, a path at least 915 mm (36 inches) wide should be provided into and through all living spaces.

When planning shelving or storage units, consider the different reaching abilities of your family members, as well as how those abilities might change over time. Adjustable shelves can always be changed as needed.

Lighting can also contribute to both the ambiance and safety of your home. To enhance safety, the lighting should be bright and consistent, especially along hallways and stairs. Permanent night-lights next to bedrooms and bathrooms can also be a good idea.

The choice of materials and finishes in your home will depend on your taste, budget and personal preferences. But remember that these choices may affect the usability of your home. For example, contrasting colours and textures in wall may help people with low vision identify primary routes and functional areas.

When buying furniture, choose pieces that are sturdy and stable. If someone in your family has difficulty getting up from a seated position, consider providing at least one chair with a firm cushion, stable arm rests and a seat height of at least 450 mm (18 inches).

To improve the acoustic quality of a room and reduce background noises for anyone who is hearing-impaired, you can add “soft” elements to the room such as carpets, drapes, upholstered furniture and acoustic ceiling tiles. For people who are visually-impaired, “hard” surfaces such as ceramic flooring or metal paneling can help enhance reflected sounds and assist with orientation needs, make a living area more “acoustically alive”.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is the Government of Canada’s national housing agency. They help Canadians gain access to a wide choice of quality, affordable homes.

You can access our CMHC information through retail outlets and CMHC’s regional offices… or visit You’ll find a wealth of information on the website and it is constantly being updated.