Accessible-Adaptable

27 09 2011

Now that’s a mouthful…But really simple, if you think about the individual definitions, and then combine them…

ac·ces·si·ble [ak-ses-uh-buhl]

adjective

  1. easy to approach, reach, enter, speak with, or use.
  2. that can be used, entered, reached, etc.: and accessible road; accessible ruins. (and accessible dwelling or building).

a·dapt·a·ble [uh-dap-tuh-buhl]

adjective

  1. capable of being adapted.
  2. able to adjust oneself readily to different conditions: an adaptable person.

ac·ces·si·ble – a·dapt·a·ble

adjective?

  1. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse convallis posuere vestibulum. Sed augue sapien, eleifend sed lobortis a, dapibus eleifend nulla.

Yes, I am being a little facetious, one could easily combine the number 1 entries of the two definitions and immediately determine that accessible – adaptable should mean that a building (or system) is capable of being adapted toward accessibility. Yet, when discussed with many, even in the construction field, this idea falls on deaf ears as though you were speaking Latin.

So, let’s digress a little bit and then bring this subject back home…

I’ve noticed, lately, that I am getting a bit older and getting up and down the stairs is becoming more adventurous (particularly with 7 spaniels and 5 cats tumbling down with me); I’ve also noticed that I don’t hear as well as I used to; or that I could use a little balance getting up and down from a seated position (any seated position). Sure, I still exercise and stay active but, what if I live to 70 or 80 or beyond?

Judy’s parents, in their 70’s, are still living very independently; but, her father Rich, has had a knee replacement and, while he enjoys not having to deal with a two-story house, he would surely appreciate more accommodations to assist him in his daily routines. Her mother, Sally, remains very spry but would also probably appreciate more accommodations to assist her to assist him. My 82 year old mother, Louie, gets around great; but, she now lives in a senior apartment complex that has many accessibility features built-in.

I also have friends who have become disabled, due to accident or illness, and now face the many daily challenges of living (and working) in less than accommodating structures. Many times, those that find themselves in the life-changing situation of a disability must look for new homes or spend significantly to adapt their present home.

So, back at the ranch, I am suggesting that all new buildings be built in such a way that they can be adapted to our ever changing lifestyle. You may have a very active lifestyle, currently; and, a change in your health or mobility should not preclude you from maintaining that active lifestyle. You should also not be expected to give up your current home or job due to changing circumstances; that’s what this is all about, adaptability.

I am not suggesting that we all live in single-story homes that are akin to a hospital suite. What I am suggesting though, is that we build in supports and systems that allow a home to be adapted. I am also suggesting that we address pragmatic design issue such as circulation paths and widths, doorway widths, workspace areas, etc. so that mobility is not impaired. As a matter of fact, what would be wrong with having a lower section of kitchen and bathroom counter that might be used as a different purpose now but become wheelchair accessible in the future; I know that many times, a lower counter is nice for working doughs and I often pull up a stool to sit as I prepare meals. And, it’s not just being adaptable for for mobility issues but also for sight and hearing issues that might arise. And, I am not poo-pooing the idea of two-story, just arguing that adaptability must also be considered; as a matter of fact, when Judy and I remodel our two-story home, many feature will be included to allow us to adapt as our lifestyles change and evolve.

In previous blogs, I have talked about the idea of hearth and home; and am a proponent of creating that life-long family home as opposed to the trade-um-up MacMansion lifestyle of many of today’s residential developments; the concept of  adaptable – accessible make that a more plausible reality (in conjunction with other lifestyle decisions). As a board member of the Salem County Habitat for Humanity, I can tell you that all future builds will be adaptable.

So, as I have been saying all along; think, plan, dream…but, just as importantly, talk to a design professional and capitalize on the expertise that will include, not only lifestyle discussions, but also lifestyle adaptability.

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