Architectural and interior design are two of the most important aspects of accessibility. Often, when we think of making something accessible, we think of corporate buildings, schools, hospitals, or malls. These are the first things that come to mind because they are public, high traffic areas that must be fit for all types of people as well as diverse disabilities. Something even more complex than an accessible public space, is a residential home. It is very difficult to find accessible homes when relocating, so many homes must be converted prior to moving by architects and interior designers. Finding a one story home big enough for a family, or a two story home with first floor bedrooms is very difficult to come by. Additions must be added to spaces like these to make them completely accessible, so a disbaled person or family can happily live in their own spaces.
Building and designing a home around a disability is so complex because it is an actual living space. Everything you have in a typical home, must be completely re-thought and re-designed to fit the needs of any specific disability. Outside the home this often includes the width of the driveway, a ramp instead of stairs, and an electronic door to enter the home. Inside, the house may have to be one story, with low kitchen counters and cabinets, large handicapped bathrooms, oversized hallways, doorways, and beds. In this new digital era, we are very lucky to have access to a variety of useful technologies that can be incorporated into homes to make living much easier for one with a disability. Of course every disability is different, but there are ways to design around them all to make an accessible and seamless living space.
A local designer, Pam, from outside the Philadelphia area informed me on some experiences she has had with making accessible homes for her clients. She has modified homes that were once completely inaccessible to fit her clients needs. For one client, she converted a room on the first floor of a two story house to become a full sized bedroom and bathroom, to accommodate the owners physical needs. This way they were able to live in their beloved home for many more years. Another client has two girls ages, seven and eleven, who are handicapped in wheelchairs. Here, she redesigned the kitchen, purchasing all new cabinets and appliances that are ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) approved, with bluetooth appliances, motion sensored faucets, and custom counter heights. She also added slip resistant flooring on the existing wheelchair ramps, set lightswitches at a lower height for reachable access. A couple of other clients have hired Pam to specifically remove bathtubs, to convert the space into zero entry, also known as “curbless” showers. These showers have grab bars and benches for safe and stable use. Elevators have also been installed in a few homes that are multiple stories tall. This way all members of the home are able to access all parts of the house, without having to move to a ranch or one story home. Pam loves being able to come up with new ideas to help people make their homes more accessible, “Once a home is made accessible, it allows for a disbaled owner to fall in love with it all over again and see what they could not imagine before”.