STUDY 2 – Accessible design, hospital discharge and ageing in place: A national survey of occupational therapists

This report is the second of two studies investigating accessible housing conducted through the Summer Foundation–La Trobe University research program, to inform decision-makers on incorporating minimum mandatory accessibility standards in the 2022 National Construction Code (NCC). While past research has highlighted the negative impacts of inaccessible housing, little systematic evidence exists regarding the importance of specific accessible design features.

This study aimed to identify which accessible features would have the greatest positive impact on discharging patients from hospital and enabling older Australians to age at home. This study also examined which home modifications are most often needed, as well as quantified the delays to discharge arising from home modifications. It surveyed 134 Occupational therapists (OTs) who regularly conduct home visit assessments, and asked them to rate 22 accessible features according to impact on hospital discharge and/or ageing in place.

This study found that a lack of accessible features in all homes makes hospital discharge slower and ageing in place harder. The most important accessible features to consider as mandatory requirements for minimum access design in the NCC are:

  • A safe and step-free path to a step-free entrance into the dwelling
  • A 900 x 900mm shower with a step-free entry, on the ground floor
  • A toilet and space for a bedroom on the ground floor
  • Reinforced walls around the toilet, shower and bath to support the safe installation of grab rails at a later date

These features are important for both ageing in place and hospital discharge. Their inclusion as minimum standards will make homes more accessible for everyone. Without mandatory minimum accessibility standards, many post-build home modifications will remain necessary.

This study points to the inefficiencies of retrospectively modifying homes, rather than incorporating minimum accessibility features as standard in new homes.

Download the Preliminary Findings summary for this report.