Nuking from a wheelchair

Well, we’re moving from one apartment to another so that we can be close to our lot as we begin building our new, accessible home.  Coming from a huge home in FL that we remodeled to fit both Jim’s accessibility needs as well as my desire to feel that I am living in a stylish, well appointed space — something has popped up as a relatively easy fix but one which could make a big accessibility difference.  It’s the microwave, or rather than microwave/vent hood combo.

The combination of a microwave with a vent hood has become a ubiquitous fixture in our kitchens.  It’s been surprisingly simple to find a decent one as I look for products for our home; in some big box stores, the ratio of these types of units compared to vent-only ones leads me to believe that the combo is here to stay in a big way. More

Grab Bars That Don’t Look Like Grab Bars

Grab bars are a necessity of daily life in a home where a physically challenged person lives.  Proper bracing of a grab bar is key but, whoa, are there differences out there.  While some grab bars are very institutional looking, others look like very nice towel bars and can fool virtually anyone.  Some that fall into the latter category can be really pricey but I’ve found some very good ones starting at around $35 with very low shipping rates (or even possibly free) on several online sites. More

Accessible Elevator House Plan Finalized

Wow, what a trip!  After months of designing, re-designing and then re-designing the redesigns it appears that we’ve finally gotten down to the right floor plan for our house.  The designer has managed to get a rambler/ranch house footprint within the restrictive area we own above the rockeries on our lot.  And we’ve gone from 3 stories including basement to just a single floor with a basement.  Sadly, it’s looking like a 4200 sf house which is almost 700 sf larger than the house in FL!  It’s surely a better use of the space than the remodel we did in Palm Harbor if nothing else! More

A Linear, Accessible Master Bathroom?

After many, many iterations, I think we’ve finally settled on a design for our accessible master bathroom.  It’s a whopping 21′ long and 8′ wide, includes a 5 x 8 roll-in shower, 2 wall hung sinks with covered plumbing, a chair-height commode with appropriate grab bars and a nice, deep whirlpool tub. 

The linear thing came to me when I was considering how we would use the future ceiling lift/transport system at some point.  The line-up of fixtures would allow the most straight forward, equipment efficient and cost effective way to use the space considering Jim’s challenges.  Instead of mulitple “stops” (which are pretty expensive) in the ceiling track, we’d only need a “T” shape which should really help. More

Beyond the standards – personalized design for accessibility and aging in place

We’re in the middle of the design process on our “forever” home and accessibility is at the top of our list.  I’ve seen the little dotted circles on “canned” house plans I’ve researched on the internet – that’s usually a 5 foot radius that a wheelchair might use in that particular area.  It’s nice that these things are being considered by more and more architects but is it enough? 

For us, the standards are a jumping off point.  I see them, I think about them but I have to inject reality.  Jim’s power wheelchair is huge and it’s rear wheel drive.  That means it has more sticking out from the back than in front.  That presents a manuevering challenge.  If you don’t study how the chair tracks when turning, you may find yourself repairing and repainting molding and door trim way more often than you’d like.  More

Can a refrigerator raise self esteem for a disabled person?

Our Fridge of all Fridges!

A refrigerator.  We all have ‘em.  We all use ‘em.  Some have freezers on top, others on the bottom.  Some are side by sides and still others are called armoire style.  The interesting ones have ice makers and filtered water dispensers.  They come in black, white, biscuit, stainless steel and probably other colors as well.  To someone in a wheelchair, the finish might not matter much but the configuration can be the source of frustration or an everyday item that can be the source of a feeling of independence, freedom and accomplishment.

Think about being in a wheelchair.  Your eye level is different than an able-bodied person.  For my husband, a standard side by side configuration is nice because he can pretty easily open the doors.  They’re narrow so they don’t weigh so much.  However, since his left side is challenged, that configuration isn’t the perfect one – he can get one side opened reasonably but not the other without some monumental repositioning effort.  For Jim, a bottom freezer configuration works pretty well but those doors tend to be very heavy.  If items are thoughtfully placed into that type of fridge, he could maneuver his chair and get to what he wants with consistency.  But even that’s not perfect. More

Musings on an accessible bathroom

Accessible, not institutional… lots of designers seem to have the accessibility part down.  They have the right turn radius space built into the plans, they specify a roll-under sink and a high toilet but when it comes to finishes there’s one thing you just can’t ignore.  It looks sterile.  It looks institutional.  And when I think of my husband’s plight after his brain injury:  where’s the dignity and pride in ownership in that? More

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