LOADING

Type to search

Accessibility in an Inaccessible World

Share

 

 
Just last week, Tony made one of the most fatal mistakes that can happen to a business owner—he had the audacity to pull his back out. While I say it in jest, it is not at all funny—accidents happen, old injuries are aggravated, people get hurt, disease strikes, the aging process hits, and sometimes, you are suddenly immobile.
 
When I caught up with Tony later in the day, he commented on how quickly the lifestyle you know can be changed and how having an accessible home suddenly becomes a necessity, not just a desire. Even though Tony and I are still quite mobile and happily middle-aged, we both suffer from old injuries from years of athletics. I still take spills when we go mountain biking that leave me bruised and bloodied and Tony still fights the effects of arthritis in one of his knees and, of course, the old back injury that never really goes away.
 
So what do these middle-aged failings have to do with Infusion Design? Infusion Design seeks to make homes that are durable, environmentally friendly, accessible and just plain easier to live in. How is this achieved? Well, it is certainly not through our expertise alone. In past installments, we have talked about green building and its part in Infusion Design. This article discusses what makes Infusion Design so special: accessibility. Most people have not even heard of, or thought about, accessible design for their homes. Baby Boomers (that includes Tony—I am just a Gen X-er), and our aging parents, however, realize that the need will soon be real to have homes that can accommodate varying stages of mobility for our parents, our children and ourselves.  
 
For our accessibility component, we have turned largely to Universal Design as a starting point. Universal Design, also known as “design for all,” seeks to make products and spaces usable by as many people as possible without the need for special adaptation. To learn more about Universal Design, go to http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/about_ud/udprinciples.htm.
 
While there are other accessibility concepts, including Visitability (see http://www.visitability.org/), and the requirements of the American Disabilities Act (see http://www.ada.gov/), we feel that Universal Design is the most accommodating to the largest number of people.
 
We are taking our accessibility component a step further, however, and have also put together an advisory panel consisting of the AARP, the therapists at the Delaware Visiting Nurse Association, and the pending addition of the University of Delaware through the newly formed Delaware Design Institute. Why would we go through the process of having an advisory panel, why not just adopt Universal Design? Because something good can be made even better with input from real sources that deal with accessibility issues in practice as well as theory.
 
In creating the Infusion Design accessibility criteria, we are requiring certain changes to standard home construction, such as requiring railings on both sides of stairways, including reserved space for an elevator shaft or blocking in walls where a chair lift can be installed, requiring 36″ wide doors and wider hallways to ease mobility. These are just a few of the required criteria. In addition to required components, Infusion Design also has recommended considerations, such as open cabinetry under sinks for use by those in wheelchairs, sensors for lights, and recommended textures and color contrasts for finish materials. 
 
The difference that Infusion Design seeks to create is a real one—initiating structural changes that make homes easier to live in today and tomorrow. The point is to create a well built home that will last for generations, that will also accommodate all of those generations in every stage of life. Adapting a home that has Infusion Design criteria in the event of immobility will be more efficient and cost-effective than trying to renovate a traditional home that has not incorporated these concepts. Some homes cannot be renovated to accommodate a person in a wheelchair and the occupant must move out. With Infusion Design, we are seeking to make spaces so that you don’t need to leave your home because of a physical condition.
 
We are excited about our advisory panel and its input to make our concept even better with the common goal of improving the standard of living for all of humanity. In our case, it is the mission statement of our company. If you have any questions about Infusion Design, please add a comment to this blog or give us a call at (302) 528-3398. We are always listening.
 
May you and your family have a healthy and happy holiday season. Talk to you in 2010.