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Policy and governance » Accessibility

Accessibility/Visitability Requirements

Bolingbrook, Will and DuPage counties

Through its building code, the Village has outlined several requirements for new construction to ensure that physically challenged individuals can enter and maneuver in these homes.

Goal

Improve access to new single-family homes for people with disabilities.

Target

Developers and disabled individuals with wheelchairs.

Financing

Accessibility improvements are privately financed by the developer.

Success

Through a detailed information gathering and public review process, the Village was able to make recommendations that the development community was willing to comply with voluntarily. Since the ordinance's implementation, residents have responded positively, and the Village has incurred no additional costs. To date, about 3,200 homes are in full visitability compliance, and almost 4,000 homes have incorporated some form of visitability features.

Lessons Learned

By conducting appropriate outreach to all affected stakeholders, the Village created a policy that was acceptable to all parties.

Policy background

Since 2003, the Village of Bolingbrook has required every new residential single-family development to be “visitable” by people in wheelchairs, expanding access to those living with disabilities. Through its building code, the Village has outlined several requirements for new construction to ensure that physically challenged individuals can enter and maneuver in these homes.

The local chapter of the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois was instrumental in the passage of the accessibility ordinance. In late 1998, Mayor Roger Claar, Village staff and members of Bolingbrook’s disabled community met to discuss accessibility issues. Village staff then conducted a survey of all single-family homebuilders active in Bolingbrook to determine the approximate cost of incorporating certain “visitability” features into the construction of a new home. The survey determined that additional features would increase the cost of construction by about 1.5 percent.

In 1999, Village staff then drafted amendments to the building code and alerted builders to the changes in advance of public hearings. There was some initial resistance from developers and contractors regarding the additional costs of including these features in their homes. However, the Village demonstrated that developers had been incorporating the features in all of their homes voluntarily for four years, and that the benefit to disabled people outweighed the cost to the developer.

How it works

In 2003, Bolingbrook passed an ordinance to codify voluntary “visitability” criteria, which require:

  • A no-step entrance leading from the driveway to an entrance with a minimum 32-inch clear opening.
  • One accessible bathroom on the same level as the no-step entrance.
  • At least one shower in the home with reinforced beams to allow for the installation of grab rails if necessary at a later date.
  • Exterior doorways at least 36 inches wide and interior doors with a minimum 32-inch clear opening.
  • Corridors and passageways 42 inches wide on the same level as the no-step entrance.
  • Electrical wall outlets placed no more than 15 inches above finished flooring.
  • Wall switches controlling light fixtures and fans placed 48 inches (maximum) above finished flooring.

Public involvement

Local developers, the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago and members of Bolingbrook’s disabled community testified at a June 1999 Plan Commission meeting. The Community Development Department held two open meetings where builders, architects, members of the disabled community and Village staff further discussed the language, resulting in a more comprehensive code. This new draft was presented to members of the Plan Commission during a workshop in August 1999. A final draft of the building code text amendments was produced later that month and presented to the Plan Commission during a September meeting.

Although approved by the Plan Commission in 1999, the building code amendments were not yet law. Therefore, the Village of Bolingbrook Executive Department encouraged builders to voluntarily comply with the visitability code in the interim, which they did for the next four years. In 2003, the mayor and Village staff began the process of making the amendments law and held another series of public meetings and “open houses” for the public to view accessible homes. Tours of the homes, combined with advocacy from The Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities and the developers’ record of voluntary compliance, led to the passage of the ordinance in June 2003.

Contact

Department of Community Development, Village of Bolingbrook
630-226-8460, communitydev@bolingbrook.com, www.bolingbrook.com

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