Assistive Technology and Lending Closet by Timothy A Carey (06-16-2009)
Assistive technology and accessibility in the home are both very important to people with disabilities. To help people with disabilities find this type of information each state has various resources. Wisconsin has resources throughout the state to provide this information, but I will be telling you about three. On Thursday, May 28, 2009 I went to the open home for Options for Independent Living 10 year anniversary in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I took a tour of their model home, which is accessible to people with disabilities. They serve people in 17 counties in Northeast Wisconsin and the Fox Valley providing advocacy, information and referral, education, and technology services for people with disabilities. I was informed, in the beginning of May 2009, of another resource for people with disabilities located in Milwaukee Wisconsin. And in Larson Wisconsin there is a lending closet similar to the one at Options in Green Bay..
Options for Independent Living is a non-profit organization helping people with disabilities live independently as much as possible. John Meissner of Options told me the following,
“The Model home was built to be able to show people what accessibility would look like and incorporate it into their home. The idea of the home came from board members … Dave Hall was very instrumental in having that dream turn into reality. Dave passed away about a year ago and it was named in his honor, he had done so much to help us get the Model Home/Office built and he had done so much for us after the home was completed. Dave was an Individual with a disability and had been a powerful advocate for his entire life.”
Their model home has a wheelchair accessible kitchen, five bathrooms, master bedroom, and an assistive technologies area. They also have what is called a lending closet. Basically they lend items to people with disabilities who need them temporarily or just to try out. I would like to tell you about all the products I saw on my tour of the accessible model home. First, we were shown the kitchen. They have a hardwood looking flooring we didn’t think was compatible with a large power wheelchair, but the 10 years of high use seems to have left it problem free. We were shown how most of the kitchen cupboards, counters, and even tables can be adapted to rise up and down at the touch of a button. The range top has clearance under it for a wheelchair. The kitchen sink also has clearance under it, but it still has doors underneath. Just that these doors open perpendicular and then slide in to move completely out of the way. What they told me is, even people in wheelchairs need to do the dishes. A countertop with a high contrast between edge and main surface colors can help people with vision problems see where the edge is.
I learned that an adaption can be as simple as cutting a hole in a cutting board so a mixing bowl will not move around. And the placement of an oven or dishwashercan mean the difference between accessibility and none.
Second, we were taken to the bedroom. It is surprisingly normal looking despite many adaptations. We were shown a seemingly normal bed, which actually has all the features a hospital bed does. Here is a picture of it. The tray is not part of the bed. The bed has a
ceiling track above it, which can bring a power lift from the bed to the attached bathroom. There is a walk in, I should say roll in, closet. These California closet units are modular. So they can be adapted for someone in a wheelchair or for someone standing. And then they can be changed to different configurations depending on need as time goes by. There is specially adapted clothing with Velcro instead of snaps or buttons. There are other types of adapted clothing, some of which can be found at Adrian’s Closet.
Last, we were shown three of the five bathrooms in the home, one of which is off the bedroom. As mentioned earlier a track lift runs from the bed to an attacked bathroom. It goes to the bathtub, but also traverses the toilet and can be used
to lower someone into a wheelchair. The toilet has side grab bars, kind of like armrests, which fold down from the wall. It isn’t visible in this photo, but instead of making the toilet taller by adding a riser to the seat it was added under the toilet. My favorite item in these bathrooms is the heat lamp. With my muscular dystrophy and lack of muscle tone, I get cold easy getting dressed in the morning. So I may get one for my bedroom. It will be difficult avoiding being under the heat lamp for hours on end like a cat in a sunny window. If you are in a wheelchair or have limited mobility, then what is an accessible bathroom without a roll in shower? You can have a modular surround installed almost flush with the floor or you can have one made with tile. With the roll in shower you can have a rough none slip floor installed. It is shown here in the picture with the wheeled shower chair.
As mentioned earlier, the best accessibility disability item isn’t necessarily the most expensive or complicated. Two unique devices are very simple, but could be very useful. The first is a hair dryer you can use hands free or for hairstyling for someone with only one arm. The second is a foot pedal to flush the toilet.
Having a tour of this remarkable accessible model home was both educational and fun. It encouraged me to think about some of the adaptations I might need and want and it encouraged my parents to think about some changes they may need in the future. Everyone does eventually have a disability. This home with kitchen, bedroom, and many bathrooms is an important public commodity that should be around for at least another 10 years. It can help people with disabilities and people who will have disabilities in the future.
Another important resource for people with disabilities is located near Larson Wisconsin. This is the Larsen/Winchester Lions Club Loan Closet. As explained earlier, this is where people with disabilities are given equipment to borrow. They can be contacted at the following:
Equipment info (920) 427-3244.
Ramp info (929) 427-3236.
As you can see there are people and organizations trying to help people with disabilities beyond just what our government in willing to pay for or do. Some organizations do get some help from government funding, but it is still important people support them with donations or in any way they can. For instance, Options for Independent Living does take donations on their website. As explained earlier, everyone eventually will have a disability. Options for Independent Living, the Lions Club, and people like Melissa R. Lemke should be commended for being involved with helping people with disabilities. There are other such organizations and individuals in Wisconsin and around the country who yet need to be written about.