Designing Housing for Disabled People By John M. Williams
In the 30 years that I have been involved in the disability field, scores and scores of people with disabilities have told me about the woes they encountered in having an accessible house built. I could write a book on their horrific trials that have caused delays in building, additional costs for retrofitting and personal anguish.
People have told me, for example, that garage doors did not automatically open using a remote control. The bathtub was not wheelchair accessible. The counters in the kitchen were inches higher than they were suppose to me. Some of the wall switches were too high to reach. As a result people could not reach anything from her wheelchair. Instead of a ramp, three steps lead to the front porch.
“The concept of universal design in building houses is an absolute if people with disabilities want accessible housing that is affordable,” says advocate Kevin Thomas. Universal design is the idea that when building something it is built so everyone can use it.
However, there are people who have a different concept other than universal design when building accessible housing.
One such individual is Aaron Lema whose company is Simplified Disabled Housing (www.simplifieddisabledhousing.com). His motto is, “The belief that improving the quality of life of your fellow human beings through the capitalist system is the right way to succeed and improve one’s own quality of life."
Lema believes that Simplified Disabled Housing goes far beyond the methods of Universal Housing and the ADA, which, he believes, limit the housing industry by giving builders a ridged set of "one size fits all" standards by which to build a new home. His patent-pending system individualizes homes by offering multiple styles, different heights, widths, depths, and left/right handedness options for the components of a home.
Here’s how it works. People with accessible housing needs tour a model home fitted with colored markers developed by his company. They determine the height, width and depth of the components of their individualized home by reaching out to the dot that best fits their needs and record their choice on a check off sheet.
Lema believes his system makes a home what it should be, an affordable and accessible sanctuary that adapts to individuals, instead of making people adapt to it. He says, “This new way of building a home will maximize your independence through greater accessibility.”
His tall order goal is to build (in association with licensed builders) a minimum of 3,317,760 homes for people with accessibility needs, nationwide, over the next eight years. He believes this will bring accessible housing into the mainstream.
Lema strongly asserts that by offering the Simplified Disabled Housing system, a home developer will be giving the people with accessible housing needs the same opportunities to purchase a home as other home buyers, at fair market values. He says, “Until now, having a custom built home or modifying after purchase (both expensive processes) and making due with current homes limited accessibility (accessibility limited by homes construction) were the only option available to families with accessibility needs.”
Lema preaches that by offering the Simplified Disabled Housing system, a home developer will be giving the people with accessible housing needs the same opportunities to purchase a home as other home buyers, at fair market values. He believes that until now, having a custom built home or modifying after purchase (both expensive processes) and making due with current homes limited accessibility (accessibility limited by homes construction) were the only option available to families with accessibility needs.
Lema’s program is simple and straightforward. It should save builders money. When building an accessible home, a good piece of advice is visit it often.