More people live with disabilities today than ever before in the U.S. One reason for the changing demographic is the population is aging. Another reason is many more veterans survived recent wars than in previous conflicts, returning home with extreme injuries.
Veterans with disabilities experience daily limitations in the civilian world. Nowhere are the challenges more apparent than in the home. Enter universal design, a movement promoting buildings, products and environments inherently accessible to those with disabilities. New buildings are designed today with an increased sensitivity toward these issues. ADA legislation and advances in assistive technology also fuel the trend toward barrier-free environments. We’ve come a long way over the past few decades, but have a long way to go.
The Gary Sinise Foundation and the Wounded Warrior Home Project are two organizations working to provide homes for disabled veterans that are attractive, comfortable and accessible using ageless design (aka universal design). Wounded soldiers should be able to return home from war without worry about how they will live independently. This common sense approach to building works well for non-veterans as well, especially children and elderly people.
Features of Universal Design for Homes include:
- At least one stepless entrance.
- A maximum rise of 1/2 inch at thresholds.
- A place to put packages while opening doors such as a built-in shelf.
- Weather protection shelter while unlocking and opening doors such as a porch, awning or long roof overhang.
- be easy for friends and emergency personal to locate.
- Bedroom and accessible bathroom on ground level.
- Accessible kitchen and laundry room on same floor as bedroom.
- 34-36 inch wide doors
- 5 foot Turning space in all rooms
- Stair handrails which extend horizontally beyond the top and bottom risers
- Ambient and focused lighting
- Lever door handles
- Light switches at least 36-44 inches above floor.
So many factors go into creating an accessible design; each room in a home can be a blog on its own.This post is meant to provide an overview for what can (and should) be done for veterans who return home with a disability. Adjusting to civilian life is hard enough; let’s do what we can to make them comfortable.
Check out our other blogs for more information. Not Just for Wheelchairs; The Beauty of Accessibility is a good place to start.