Rep. Stewart bill would change building code to require accessibility standards in new home construction
STATE HOUSE —Rep. Jennifer Stewart (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) has introduced legislation that would add accessibility requirements to the state building code for certain new homes built in the state.
The Rhode Island Inclusive Home Design Act (2023-H 5764) would establish a new article in the state building code that would require certain new housing construction to contain at least one floor that meets the requirements for a visitable unit of the American National Standards Institute for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities.
“As we focus our policy-making attention on housing, we can’t forget to meet the diverse accessibility and inclusion needs of people with disabilities,” said Representative Stewart. “According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 26% of Americans have a disability, yet only about 6% of the housing supply is designed to be accessible. And it’s estimated that about 70% of people will experience some sort of physical disability in their lives that make stair climbing impossible. We need to adopt these standards in new housing, so that those who develop mobility problems won’t have to move. And it’s a lot cheaper to build those homes and make them visitable now, than to renovate them later on.”
Inclusive home design means considering how well a house will work for anyone, of any age or ability, who may live there now or in the future; and thinking about how access to and around the house, and rooms and spaces within the home, can be flexible throughout a lifetime.
The bill would grant exceptions in cases where the requirement would create an undue burden by applying for an exemption from the Building Code Standards Committee.
The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Brandon Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston), David Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence), Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34 South Kingstown, Narragansett), Enrique G. Sanchez (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Brianna Henries (D-Dist. 64, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Cherie L. Cruz (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket), has been referred to the House Committee on State Government and Elections, which is scheduled to hear testimony on the bill on Tuesday, March 14. Similar legislation (2023-S 0590) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Samuel W. Bell (D-Dist. 5, Providence).