Today’s blog post is a little different, because I have a guest! Barry Long is a real estate agent specializing in accessible housing. He actually left his career as a motivational speaker to build the system that helps other real estate agents find accessible homes for their clients. I asked him to be a guest on the blog today to talk about accessibility in your own home.
Barry told me that his kids always seemed so big at the age they were at, and then they got bigger! It’s difficult to visualize the future and anticipate what your child is going to need in your home. It may be easy to say, “We’ll worry about that when we get there,” but there are some serious advantages to start thinking about it now, as you won’t be rushed into decision making, and you can shop around for options. When kids have access to their space, it encourages them to be more autonomous. Kids being successful in their own space helps them to be successful in their life!
While thinking about your home’s accessibility may be intimidating, it really just boils down to two questions that you can answer today. So, without further ado, here are Barry’s suggestions of what to think about now when it comes to accessibility in your home:
Is your current home a temporary home or your forever home?
This dictates your priorities, whether you want to do a full remodel of your current home, do a few minor updates, or start looking to buy a new home.
It can be helpful to get a consult from an architect to determine if your home can be remodeled, or if looking at a new home would be best. An architect may be able to imagine and suggest innovative solutions you may not have thought of yourself.
Consider return on investment
ROI has improved significantly for accessible homes. It used to be that unsightly accessibility features in a home would decrease the value. However, nowadays, accessibility features are a lot more design friendly and a lot more valued! So, don’t worry about making those changes – it will increase the value of your home!
Accessibility should stay with the house
Don’t make a bunch of temporary changes to your current house, thinking you can just take everything with you when you move. When looking for a new house, you really want to find the house that fits your family’s needs, not the one that will fit any one specific feature. This way, you’ll find a house that fits YOU better.
Buying an accessible home
Barry can help you find a home that suits your child’s specific accessibility needs, or one that is easily adaptable to do so. He can anticipate a lot of accessibility features you may need but haven’t considered. You can check out some of the accessible homes for sale in the Seattle area on his website https://ableenvironments.com/
What are your priorities for accessibility?
It can be really difficult to anticipate exactly what your child is going to need as they grow up. Accessibility is different for everyone, and everyone has individual needs.
Look at other examples
Try to find families of older kids with similar disabilities to your child’s, or adults with similar disabilities to help you anticipate what your child may need. They will likely bring up accessibility features you couldn’t have forseen that could really make a big difference. This also helps to manage expectations, because it can be really difficult to think about how your child may be functioning in the future.
Consider all the possibilities for the future
While you don’t want to anticipate the worst, some planning for it can be helpful. For example, if you lift your child for transfers, you may consider installing a track lift system in your home, or at least the supports in the ceiling that can support such a system. It doesn’t mean you have to plan to use it all the time, but if the grandparents want to watch your child, if you get injured and can’t lift for a while, or your child needs more support while recovering from a surgery, it could be a very helpful feature of your home.
Consider what kinds of scenarios your child might be in
How might your child be transferring into and out of their wheelchair? Do you need enough room for assist? Do they transfer on a specific side? Will they eventually need a lift system? Remember, you won’t be lifting them forever! Do you imagine them helping out with the laundry some day? Making their lunch before school? There are so many different scenarios and they are all very specific to each and every kid.
Go room by room
It can be overwhelming to think of all the scenarios your child might be in. An easier way to do this is going room by room. Start with the approach to the house – how you get from the car to inside the house, then consider their bathroom, their bedroom, the living spaces, kitchen, laundry, and so on. Again, there is a lot to consider here, so Barry has provided an extensive guide that he sometimes uses with clients to assess their needs by room.
Focus on universal design
Universal design is a way to design spaces that allows the greatest number of people to access it. For example, lever door handles are easier to open than knob door handles for someone with dystonia. They also make it easier for someone with arthritis or poor grip strength to open the door, and it makes it easier for you when you’re carrying all the groceries. Universal design benefits everyone. It welcomes more people into your home, and it increases the value of your home.
Barry’s final tip – if you change one thing, make it the bathroom! It is often the biggest area of accessibility issues, and has a high ROI.
Thank you so much Barry for sharing all of your wonderful tips today, and I greatly appreciate all the work you’re doing in the world.
If you want to get in touch with Barry, you can contact him at Barry@ableenvironments.com
Or check out his website at www.ableenvironments.com. Barry is also giving a talk on buying accessible homes next week! If you’re interested in attending virtually, you can check out the details here: http://sci.washington.edu/info/forums/schedule.asp