June 22, 2022

Duckworth, Casey Introduce Bill to Help More Seniors and Disabled Americans Live Independent Lives

Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act would help meet demand for accessible housing for Veterans, individuals with disabilities and aging Americans


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, today introduced the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act to help ensure all newly constructed single-family homes built with federal funding include at least one accessible (or “zero step”) entrance, doorways wide enough for a wheelchair, one wheelchair accessible bathroom and light switches as well as thermostats at reachable heights from a wheelchair. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09) on July 26, 2021. 

“It is unacceptable that over 15 percent of households are home to someone with a physical disability but only six percent of all homes actually meet accessibility standards,” said Duckworth. “Veterans, seniors and people with disabilities deserve to be able to move around their own homes and visit friends and family without worrying about architectural barriers, and I’m proud to introduce this bill to help make that a reality.”

“For too long, people with disabilities have faced barriers to traveling freely between friends’ and neighbors’ homes because of inaccessibility. They deserve to be full participants in their communities and neighborhoods. This bill would help fulfill the promise that the Americans with Disabilities Act made to people with disabilities and make many new homes physically accessible. We have a long way to go to make all aspects of our society accessible, and this bill helps us take a big step forward. I’m proud to introduce it with Senator Duckworth and Representative Schakowsky,” said Casey.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act made a commitment to eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities. While the ADA has provided hope and opportunity for many Americans, there is still more work to be done. That is why I am proud to be the lead in the House on the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act,” said Schakowsky. “The Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act will make new-single family homes and townhouses built with federal dollars more accessible for people with disabilities, seniors, and veterans. This legislation would ensure new homes come equipped with zero-step entrances, doorways wide enough for wheelchairs, accessible bathrooms, and reachable light switches and thermostats. Building visitability features into new homes costs next to nothing and would allow more freedom for people with disabilities, seniors, and veterans. It is time we built on the promise of the ADA.”

Duckworth previously introduced the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act in the 116th Congress. The legislation is named after Eleanor Smith, a leader in the thirty-year movement to ensure that all new homes are visitable by mobility-impaired individuals. Smith has successfully included accessibility features into local building codes across the country, however federal accessibility requirements are still nonexistent for privately-owned homes.

The National ADAPT, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Association of Interior Designers, Autism Society, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Independence First, National Council on Independent Living, Paralyzed Veterans of America and The Arc of the United States all support the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act.

The copy of the bill text can be found here.