Guidance for Making Homes Accessible

Guest Blog By Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

Rosemarie’s Story

On June 13, 1998, my husband Mark Leder and I went for a bicycle ride on a rural wooded bike trail in Granville, OH. After riding for a few minutes, Mark thought he heard a gunshot and slowed down to investigate.  As he scanned the scene he saw a large tree falling. He shouted, “Stop!” But the warning was too late. Instantly, I was crushed by a 7,000 pound tree and paralyzed from the waist down.

Coming home from the hospital in a wheelchair in July 1998 after my spinal cord injury, I realized how my home intensified my disability.  My husband and I knew that we had to sell our home and find something more suitable.

Designing and Building the Universal Design Living LaboratoryUnivDesignLivingLab

My husband is 6’4″ tall while I am 4’2″ seated in my wheelchair.  Our heights and reaches were factors in the home design so that we were both accommodated.

In September of 2004 we hired architect, Patrick Manley to draw the house plans for our new home.  In January 2005 we hired kitchen and bath designer and internationally renowned universal design specialist Mary Jo Peterson.

We hired Robert August in October 2005 to help us with branding, marketing, and contacting international and national corporations to partner with us by contributing products and services.

Mark and I bought an acre and a half lot in December of 2006. We broke ground on September 23, 2009. In addition to being accessible, universal design and green building construction principles were followed.  We received the highest levels of certification from three universal design national certification programs.

We acquired 214 contributors and had hundreds of people volunteer to help us.  Our home could not have been built without their support. Mark and I have personally funded our home, the Universal Design Living Laboratory, and served as the general contractors.  On May 18, 2012 we moved into our new home.

Better Health

The first noticeable improvement when I moved into our new home was the ease in navigating on the hardwood and tile floors.  My shoulders were no longer strained as they had been on carpeting.  I realized that my carpal tunnel syndrome pain and numbness in my hands was lessened.

With 3,500 square feet in the home and access to the 2,000 square foot landscape paver area, I have plenty of room to walk with my rolling walker.  This gives me the opportunity for more exercise and weight bearing as I stand.  The frequency of leg spasms is directly related to how often I walk and stand.  As a result, I don’t need to take anti-spasm medicine and get a good night’s sleep. My muscles, bones and joints benefit from walking and standing.

In the Kitchen

As others plan to remodel or build, they need to build in features that allow the occupants independence.  Universal design features in the kitchen include the overall design of the circulation pattern, cabinet design, counter top height, and appliance selection.

  • A minimum 5-foot turning radius throughout the kitchen allows a person who uses a wheelchair the ability to do a 360-degree turnaround. Power wheelchairs and scooters may need additional space.
  • Side-hinged ovens are preferable to those hinged at the bottom, installed at a height that is easy to reach from a wheelchair.
  • Cooktop controls and ventilation control panel at the front and at waist height make them accessible by all.
  • Multiple countertop heights, such as 40, 34, and 30 inches, accommodate a diverse population. A 30-inch countertop with knee space underneath works well for someone who remains seated during meal preparation.
  • At least half of the storage space should be accessible from a seated position, including drawers and cabinet shelves.
  • Cooktops and sinks with knee space beneath make for user-friendly work areas. This space can be hidden by removable or retractable doors.
  • A dishwasher raised 16 inches off the floor eliminates the need to bend down low.
  • Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers provide easier access from a seated position.

New Resource – The Universal Design ToolkitUnivImage

I acquired research skills and a wealth of information that I wanted to share with others. This resulted in writing the Universal Design Toolkit: Time-saving ideas, resources, solutions and guidance for making homes accessible. This is a 200 page full-color illustrated resource that is packaged with four hours of online videos and webinar replays. The Universal Design Toolkit is new … unique … and is the only learning program resource of its kind.

This comprehensive learning package includes everything that is needed – including new, hard to find, and little-known information – as well as guides, checklists, videos, answers, sources and more – in an easy to access electronic format.

FLASH SALE – $47 for a Limited Time

Take advantage of the NARI members-only offer. For the next two weeks NARI Members can purchase the Universal Design Toolkit: Time-saving ideas, resources, solutions, and guidance for making homes accessible at a price of $47. That’s a $50 dollar saving, but only between now and July 25. This is a digital 200-page full-color illustrated resource and includes four hours of online videos and webinars.  BUY NOW


About the Author

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is an internationally known speaker, consultant, and author of the Universal Design Toolkit. To get a free chapter  and learn more about her national demonstration universal design home and garden, the Universal Design Living Laboratory, go to: www.UDLL.com To contact Rosemarie and learn about her speaking services, go to: www.RosemarieSpeaks.com

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