The World of "Off-site" Homes

Reprinted from PN December 2007

At last—a fully accessible, reasonably priced, comfortable, beautiful, energy-efficient "Home Sweet Home"?

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Personal happiness and independence are deeply affected by our ability to perform everyday living tasks and activities ... especially within our own homes! Even for perfectly healthy individuals, our ability to successfully accomplish tasks in the home, such as cooking and bathing efficiently and safely, is sometimes seriously impeded by the way most homes have been designed and built through the years.

Installation of a platform lift can solve the problem of steps leading to an entryway.
After a spinal injury sustained in early 1953, I spent two-plus years as a wheelchair user. In 2005, I underwent surgery for advanced spinal degenerative disc disease and recently learned I will probably again use a wheelchair in the not- too-distant future.

As a professional architect, product designer, and builder, I know firsthand how physical barriers in our homes prevent us from enjoying independent and safe daily living. Steps leading to the front door create a potential hazard for youngsters and adults and are a major obstacle for anyone with a mobility impairment. Narrow hallways and doorways are hard to get through when our hands are full of groceries, or carrying a young infant, or for someone using a walker or wheelchair. Round door knobs can be tricky for children's small hands as well as the arthritic hands of adults. Trying to get something from upper-cabinet shelves can be a challenge for anyone who is short or has difficulty stretching and reaching. Lower kitchen and bathroom cabinet shelves are almost impossible to reach into. Poor lighting makes it difficult to see and hinders the performance of simple daily tasks.

Some of the elements of a "Universal Design featured Livable Home" are: — A zero-step main entry into the house — All hallways are 42 inches minimum width and doors 36 inches wide — Lower kitchen and bathroom cabinets with full-extension drawers for ease of use and open finished accessible spaces underneath the kitchen sink, cooktop, and bathroom sinks for comfortable chair and wheelchair use — Front-load and front-controls dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer mounted on elevated platforms minimize bending — Clear five-foot-diameter open spaces in all rooms — A spacious curb-less shower — Electrical outlets, light switches, and thermostat mounted at convenient accessible heights — Great energy-efficient, high-output fluorescent lighting throughout the house

Find out more about the author's efforts in making universal design homes (in the form of modular, off-site built homes) available to everyone.


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The World of "Off-site" Homes


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