Extension News

Iowans Share Stories about Improving Home Accessibility

3/30/2009

AMES, Iowa -- There’s no place like home — particularly when home is a welcoming, safe place for a family member with a disability.

However, Iowa State University Extension housing specialist Mary Yearns knows all about Iowans whose homes aren’t like “home” — with doorways that are too narrow for wheelchairs or stairways that make whole floors off limits. Fortunately, she helps them make modifications so that their family members who have disabilities can feel “at home” once again.

“People who have a family member with a disability need to think about ways to make their homes easier to live in,” Yearns said. “Your home must be welcoming and easy to move around in, regardless of your age, size, needs and abilities.”

Consumer Perspectives on Home Remodeling for Accessibility,” an ISU Extension online seminar, features ideas for making a home more convenient and accessible for people with disabilities. An archived version of the Webinar is available for viewing anytime at http://connect.extension.iastate.edu/p53505583/.

In the webinar, Iowa families talk about the practical modifications they’ve made to their homes and low-cost to high-tech solutions they’ve found, with room-by-room suggestions, Yearns said.

Stories and photos from the 11 families Yearns interviewed about their home remodeling experiences also can be viewed at ISU Extension’s Universal Design and Home Accessibility website, www.extension.iastate.edu/UniversalDesign/Stories.

“You can see what they did and learn how they paid for it,” Yearns said.

Build an Addition
Jean has neuropathy in her feet, legs and hands. Because their bedroom and laundry were separated by two flights of stairs, Jean and her husband decided to build an addition with a bedroom, bathroom and laundry area on the main level.

Jean said, “It has definitely made it easier bringing both [the upstairs and the downstairs] to the same level. We also love to have the laundry so close.”

She added, “It is the simplest things: not going up the stairs and down the stairs. I really like that.”

Adapt a One-Level Home
Pam, who has quadriplegia, and her husband decided their best option was to move from their split-level house and buy a new, one-level home that could be made more accessible. Minor alterations included an accessible shower, wider doorways and automatic door openers and other adaptations Pam can control from her wheelchair.

Pam said, “Each modification gets you closer to being independent and having a richer quality of life.”

Make the Garden Accessible
How do you make a garden accessible? Raise the garden beds and the water hook-ups, and seek out specialized tools that make it easier to work in the garden, says Melanie, an ISU Extension Master Gardener.

“Plan ahead for what you’re doing. Look, read and research what is out on the market and new,” she said. Her approach in making modifications is to “use the same strategy outside that you do inside.”

Find these stories and more at ISU Extension’s Universal Design and Home Accessibility Web site, www.extension.iastate.edu/UniversalDesign/Stories.

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Contacts :

Mary Yearns, Human Development and Family Studies, (515) 294-8520, yearns@iastate.edu

Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0775, lsternwe@iastate.edu