Manufactured Housing: Serving the Needs of the Disabled

John Ace Underwood

One of the easiest market segments to overlook in the factory-built housing industry are our fellow citizens who also have a disability. Whether they require a wheelchair for mobility, may be deaf, or blind, or are handicapped in other ways, manufactured housing may well be the solution to meet their needs. For the purposes of this article, I will include our senior citizens in that group.

Here is what we have to understand about our clients with special needs. Be they classified as disabled or simply aging, all are looking for a home which accommodates their needs and one that allows them to live independently as long as possible.

Also consider the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which requires businesses to allow access to people with disabilities. Not doing so may be considered a discriminatory practice. I suggest doing some online research to ensure you meet those basic requirements. On the other hand, if all you’re trying to accomplish is to meet the very basic requirement of the ADA, you’re missing the true purpose of the ADA.

From a retail perspective, it may be prudent to have a conversation with your manufacturer(s) to discuss the modifications they can make to accommodate people with disabilities, as opposed to waiting until you have such a potential buyer, then having to scramble. Not being prepared suggests to your prospect that they are an afterthought. Once you have the manufacturer on board, and you are able to confidently offer certain modifications, it would be productive to actually market your offering to that community.

Some of the considerations in design and specifying a floor plan, include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Hallways only where necessary – hallways represent a challenge for individuals with limited mobility. Where you have hallways, ensure they are at least 3’ wide.
  2. Avoid Carpeting – Wood floors, laminate or vinyl are a better option disabled from a mobility standpoint, and they are easier to keep clean.
  3. Wider doorways – allows people in wheelchairs to move about freely
  4. Large Bathrooms – Keep in mind that your home buyer has to not only be able to get in and out of the bathroom, but also be able to turn a wheelchair around.
  5. Grab rails where necessary – these are easy to install and make a great difference to your home buyer.
  6. Light switches – These should be easily accessible to the prospective homeowner.
  7. Lever door handles and faucets – Knobs on doors and faucets are more difficult to turn.
  8. Lower Countertops and sinks – This makes it easier for people in wheelchairs to access to access the worksurface.
  9. Large rooms, lots of windows, lighter colors – Whether disabled or simply aging, this group of buyers are likely to spend more time at home, so a “closed-in” atmosphere or dark areas should be avoided.
  10. Lighter colors – For the same reason as mentioned above, suggest that your buyer select brighter colors as opposed to a darker color pattern.

Salespeople should be aware of these requirement and options. It’s surprising how many people, especially our aging customers, don’t think of these issues until they’re already in their new home. Discussing these options with a prospective buyer indicates that you are a professional housing consultant, and… you will be well rewarded for your effort. Of this you can be sure.


About John Ace Underwood

John Ace Underwood has a very successful 30-year career in the manufactured and modular housing industry. As a manager for a single lot retailer in the southeast, he managed up to 9 salespeople with sales typically over 45 homes per month. John has also served as Vice President for multi-lot manufactured housing retailer in the southwest.
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