Universal Design: Access for everyone

It’s a common story. People get injured and their house becomes home to 20 grab bars strategically located so that getting up and down is never a problem. What about navigating kitchen cupboards? Bathroom sink? Alternatively, parents express to their children that they do not want to move to a retirement home or a senior’s facility. But what are the options? There are too many stairs in those old houses.

Universal design has become a bit of a trendy buzz word in recent years, but some may not know what this means exactly. Simply put, universal design is the answer to a growing need in the home: accessibility.

Essentially, universal design is about creating a beautiful space that everyone can live in/visit both now and in the future. Age, size, ability… none of that matters. With universal design, there is safe access for everyone. Needs and abilities can evolve over time so universal design allows residents to live in and enjoy their home during all stages of their lives.

The trend was given a big boost by the recent dip in the economy. Homeowners would rather remodel than buy a new house. But ultimately, the reason to embrace universal design is the desire to age in place. An AARP National Survey found that 67% of people age 45 and over want to remain in their homes as long as possible. That number increased, up to a whopping 90%, as people age. Someone had to respond. Architects and builders embraced that desire and began to create homes with unique features that provide safe access for people of all ages. So, it started as a solution to the “age in place” dilemma but has expanded to providing livable homes for anyone and everyone.

It’s also important to note the word “design.” This is not just about adding grab bars around a home. Universal design means creating a beautiful home that happens to have features hidden in the design that will help homeowners and visitors alike.

Some essential universal design features include:

  • No-step entry
  • Wide doorways and hallways
  • Reachable controls and switches
  • Easy-to-use handles

If you own a multilevel house, you can incorporate universal design by adding a home elevator or wheelchair lift, making the home you love more accessible in the future.

If you are looking for smaller ways to update your current home and incorporate the new concept, some great solutions include:

  • Raised front-loading washer and dryer
  • Easy access storage and counter tops
  • Low or no-threshold stall showers with built-in benches or seats
  • Non-slip floors, bathtubs, and showers
  • Stairlift for stair travel

So get creative. How can you update you home now so that you can enjoy it well into the future?

read more

What do you PUSH for?

Mia: I PUSH beyond my comfort zone to explore new adventures!
Angela: I PUSH for a more peaceful and happy world!
Chelsie: I PUSH to inspire others to live to their fullest potential!
Tiphany: I PUSH because stereotypes don’t define me!
Auti: I PUSH to command attention!

Who are these women? Sundance Channel calls them the Push Girls. Season One has come to a close but a second season is in the works and if you haven’t heard of them yet, it’s time to learn about these phenomenal women.

Push Girls is a 14-part reality television show that follows the lives of four women in Los Angeles. The common denominator is their wheelchairs, but the show is not about wheelchairs. “It’s about lives and how we live life to the fullest. We are four women living in this world trying to have a normal life,” says Angela, one of the Push Girls. We see both how the women perceive themselves and how others see them and their wheels.

Auti and Angela became friends first when working in the entertainment industry. Six years later, Mia took part in one of Angela’s acting classes. And four years after that, they met Tiphany, who now lives with Angela. Angela is the only quadriplegic of the group; the other three women are paralyzed in the lower body. And from this group of women, Push Girls was born. “We realized we had a kindred spirit of reaching out, inspiring, encouraging and motivating people. And we all have different walks of life, so much to share,” says Auti. A fifth Push Girl was added after the pilot: Chelsie Hill, a young performer who dances with Auti and Mia in a group called Colours ‘n’ Motion.

The show has had a huge effect on people in wheelchairs, as well as able-bodied viewers. “Other shows dealing with disability often either downplay or sensationalize what it means to use a wheelchair, but Push Girls is much more holistic” (New Mobility Magazine, June 2012). It’s a show that means something different to each person. For some, it’s about informing people about paralysis and spinal cord injury. For others, it’s about five independent women and their friendship. Maybe it is the truth about life in a wheelchair. No matter what you take from it, it’s a wonderful accomplishment. Its existence itself is exciting! This could be the start of much more inclusion in television.

And audiences are responding! Push Girls hit social media hard with their Facebook page, featuring Q&As with the 4 stars of the show, inspirational stories of other women or wheelchair users, the Push Girl hall of fame, and more. Fans have responded to the show in a huge way – social media blew up every Monday night and now the series has been renewed for a second season. People in wheelchairs are seeing themselves not only represented on television but celebrated, and these strong women are to thank. Creator Gay Rosenthal says “It’s real, it’s outspoken and it’s from the heart” and that’s why we love it! Congrats on your upcoming second season ladies!

read more

Access Your Road Trip

Travel does not have to be limited by ability or finances or a fear of flying. Why not plan a road trip with friends and family? Visit the beautiful coast of California. Take a drive through the historical capitals, Washington D.C. or Toronto, ON. Spend a day at the fun-filled amusement parks of Florida. Or maybe a camping trip? For information on accessible routes and destinations, or help choosing for perfect destination, have a read!

Here are some great resources to check out: Barrier Free Travels, 22 Accessible Road Trips, TravelinWheels, Wheels Traveler, and Frommers.

We’ve also compiled a list of accessible must-see places to help you get started.

West

Hanauma Bay in Honolulu, HI loans out beach wheelchairs free of charge to visitors with physical disabilities.

The National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, CO and The National Ability Center in Park City, Utah provide adapted sports and programs for all ages and abilities.

Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, CO is an abundance of natural beauty, with accessible trails, boardwalks, and campsites.

Southwest

Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, TX is the only theme park in the world in which every ride is accessible. Park attractions were created based on the principles of sensory integration.

Midwest

Ludington State Park in Ludington, MI has beach wheelchairs available as well as an accessible boardwalk.

The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI is an accessible venue that depicts American history through exhibits, programs, and re-enactments.

Southeast

Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, FL (or Disney Land in Anaheim, CA) is a popular destination for families and is famous for accommodating guests with disabilities.

Northeast

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, NY is wheelchair accessible and runs programs for persons with disabilities.

Canada

Victoria, BC has a variety of accessible bus tours and boats for sightseeing the beautiful British Columbia.

AB is home to some of the most beautiful and accessible national parks. Grab a map and drive to Jasper, Banff, and/or Calgary to see all that nature has to offer.

Niagara Falls, ON showcases accessible attractions such as a boat tour entitled Maid of the Mist, a Journey Behind the Falls, and the White Water Walk boardwalk.

Toronto, ON offers modified tours of the Toronto Botanical Garden, as well as access to the CN Tower and the Toronto Harbourfront.

Old Montreal in Montreal, QC, with its cobblestone streets and accessible grand stone buildings is a beautiful section of town (streets may not be easy to travel for some).

 

And don’t forget these tips and tricks:

Do your research. Make a packing list beforehand. Bring entertainment/brush up on car games if you are traveling with children. Car rides are more fun with good snacks and good music. If you have a GPS, use it! Take photos of your family/friends and your travels. Be flexible!

read more