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Thread: Friends' homes often are not accessible

  1. #1

    Friends' homes often are not accessible

    'Visitability' now goal of disabled

    Friends' homes often are not accessible

    By Elaine Jarvik
    Deseret News staff writer
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    The movies, her office, her favorite restaurants: Debra Mair's public world, the one full of ramps and curb cutouts, is within reach. Her private world, too - a house designed with a wheel-in shower and wider doorways - is accessible. But there is an in-between world, the one inhabited by friends and neighbors, that might as well be on another planet.

    Willinor Newbrough poses in front of non-wheelchair-accessible stairs. "Visitability" is about making private homes accessible to the disabled.

    テつ* Coined in Great Britain and now the buzzword among disability advocates, the term takes accessibility and gives it a more visceral spin. Visitability is about a desire - to visit, make contact, be welcome.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* Often what stands between that desire and reality are hurdles that are small yet insurmountable. A single concrete step, maybe, or a bathroom door 2 inches too narrow.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* Following the lead of several municipalities and states, Salt Lake City is currently drafting a proposed ordinance aimed at encouraging builders to provide housing that is easy to visit. The Utah Legislature, too, is drafting a model visitability ordinance.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* "Being a visitor in an inaccessible house means the dangerous possibility of being dropped down the steps, the worry and embarrassment of being kept from using the bathroom, the social awkwardness of being carried, the frustration of not being able to knock on the door to see if someone's home," notes the Web site for Concrete Change, a Georgia-based nonprofit aimed at making "all homes visitable."

    テつ* テつ* テつ* "Sometimes I have to just sit out in the yard," says Mair about her trips to visit neighbors and friends in her motorized wheelchair. "I can't just knock on the door - because I can't get to the door. I have to honk or yell."

    テつ* テつ* テつ* Mair is executive director of the Utah Independent Living Center, which is among the groups trying to foster the concept of visitability. At the forefront locally is the Disability Law Center, where director Fraser Nelson is working with both the mayor's office and the Legislature's health and human services committee to draft visitability ordinances.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* Currently, federal laws require that publicly funded multiple-family housing provide accessible units. The laws make no provisions for housing with fewer than four units.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* Both the city and state's proposed visitability ordinances would mandate very little or nothing at all. Instead, they aim at providing incentives for private builders to construct new housing that provides the cornerstones of visitability: one "zero-step" entrance per house, and one main-floor bathroom accessible to a wheelchair. Or, as Concrete Change succinctly puts the goal:

    "Get in and pee."

    テつ* テつ* テつ* The city's draft ordinance is likely to be slightly more restrictive than the state's, although neither has been finalized yet (and both would have to be voted on). Both are currently seeking input from the building community.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* The city ordinance, as currently envisioned, would require that a certain percentage "20 is the number we're talking about now," says David Nimkin, the mayor's chief of staff) of publicly funded housing projects with fewer than four units meet the visitability criteria. It would also offer incentives to any private builder or developer who meets the criteria; these incentives might include discounts on building permits and a more convenient inspection process. (Sites topographically unsuitable for a zero-step entry would be exempt.)

    テつ* テつ* テつ* The state ordinance - actually a model ordinance that municipalities could
    use to frame their own ordinances - would likely provide incentives only. "I'm not sure I'm ready to say 'mandate' at this point," says Steven Mascaro, R-West Jordan, who sits on the health and human services committee and is working on a draft ordinance.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* "It's important to allow the building of these kinds of homes be market-driven," he says. "You'll find there's a very real market for this."

    テつ* テつ* テつ* Mascaro, a former builder who currently runs a land-use development consulting company, says the notion of visitability became very real to him a year ago when his 85-year-old mother-in-law came to live with his family. He saw that the bathroom wasn't big enough for someone using a walker, and that the two steps down to the patio were a challenge. "I realized that, 'There but for the grace of God go I,' " says Mascaro, 56.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* The aging baby boomer population, in fact, is what takes visitability beyond just the disability market, say visitability proponents.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* "I feel that visitability is an insurance policy," says Barbara Toomer of the Disabled Rights Action Committee. Build your house visitable from the start, she says, and you'll be able to stay in it even as you age or if you are injured (or if you want to push a baby stroller into the house).

    テつ* テつ* テつ* Concrete Change estimates that to build a visitable house from scratch costs an additional $200-$300. But that's a figure that comes from Georgia, where they don't have basements, says Spence Greer, executive officer of the Homebuilders Association of Greater Salt Lake. He estimates that in Utah - where the first floor is often several steps above ground to accommodate basement windows - the cost of building ramps or grading the land would range from $500 to $1,000. The cost to retrofit existing houses is often more.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* Currently only a few communities and states have visitability ordinances. Atlanta was the first, in 1992, but that ordinance applies only to publicly funded housing. Pima County, Ariz., in 2001 adopted the first ordinance to require visitability features in all new homes. It covers the unincorporated areas of Pima County but not Tucson.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* In Georgia, builders can receive an "easy-living home" certificate if they provide zero-step entry, easy passage through wider doors, and a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor. The Homebuilders Association is looking into a similar certificate, says Greer. "We need to educate the builders so they can recognize that this is an advantage in the sale and resale of these homes."

    テつ* テつ* テつ* The inability of disabled or elderly persons to visit the homes of friends and family can lead to isolation, "a serious risk factor for poor health," notes "The Assist Guidebook to the Accessible Home," recently published by Assist Inc., a Salt Lake nonprofit community design center.

    テつ* テつ* テつ* The days when people in wheelchairs are willing to be hauled up and down stairs are over, says Mair. "It's not only an imposition on others and on your own body, it's degrading," agrees Toomer. And there is another consideration. "What if they drop me?" says Toomer, whose large circle of family, neighbors and friends includes only two or three that are visitable. "I'm pretty well stranded as far as visiting is concerned."
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  2. #2
    Senior Member pixyvixen's Avatar
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    I feel the pain!

    My very dear friend has never been to my apartment because it's on the second floor. How I wish I lived somewhere that was visitable!

  3. #3
    Well, I do have to admit that I too sort of feel "more" disabled as a result of having to use a power wheelchair; however, I have to admit that as a C4/5 it has given me some sort of independence, I mean once my attadent has got me up and dressed in the morning, once I am in the chair, there is a certain amount of freedom I get as a result of having the freedom to go where I want when I want. I am well aware of the draw back, namely, heavey and bulky, but I think that even "I" can sacrafice my vanity for a bit of independence!

  4. #4

    Big Mouth

    Originally posted by pixyvixen:

    My very dear friend has never been to my apartment because it's on the second floor. How I wish I lived somewhere that was visitable!
    If you love him like you claim to , always stressing your love about him...... Move down stairs.....

  5. #5
    Senior Member pixyvixen's Avatar
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    okay Mad-Producer...

    I don't know why you have such a chip on your shoulder and why you're taking it out on me, but I don't appreciate your coming into every thread I post in and posting sarcastic remarks.

    I don't think I should have to justify my living on the second floor. And it's a bit irrational for me to change my living situation simply because I have a crush. That doesn't mean I can't be sad that he can't come over. I mean, we ARE talking about the problem of visitability here.

  6. #6
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    Originally posted by pixyvixen:

    I don't know why you have such a chip on your shoulder and why you're taking it out on me, but I don't appreciate your coming into every thread I post in and posting sarcastic remarks.

    I don't think I should have to justify my living on the second floor. And it's a bit irrational for me to change my living situation simply because I have a crush. That doesn't mean I can't be sad that he can't come over. I mean, we ARE talking about the problem of visitability here.
    After my a/b wife and I first met, within a week she poured a concrete sidewalk and built a ramp into her house. Must of been love at first site. That was 12 years ago. So, as far as visitability for your friend, you'll know when to resolve the accessibility issue (one way or another). I assume he does have his own accessible place where you can visit, and accessibility to your apartment should not be the real issue now. AND, if he wants to bad enough, he can drag his butt up the stairs. Been there, done that, so I know it's doable

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