Blog #9: Barbie’s Dream House
Recently, I was approached by Barbie, a divorced mother of two teenagers. She wanted a new home with some specific requirements. Her children were grown and out of the house – one was in college and one was working on the east coast. Her parents are still alive, but they are aging and she was concerned about their future. She had decided that when one parent passed away, the other would move in with her, so she could care for them. Additionally, her mother has Parkinson’s disease and may require wheelchair accessibility.
Based on the criteria, we decided to build a small two-bedroom home, about 2000 square feet. We would include a full set of stairs to an unfinished attic; however, the attic would be designed so it was easily converted to living space – two bedrooms and a bath – if she needed more space or for resale.
The entire first floor was designed with wheelchair accessibility in mind. All of the doors and hallways were wide. The master bath had a roll-in shower. The second bedroom had an ADA compliant 3 ft. x 5 ft. shower that came as a package unit, including grab bars, a seat, and a long shower curtain that reached all the way to the floor. The second bath also had an ADA compliant roll-under lavatory and plenty of space around the toilet for accessibility. Her parents participated in the bathroom design to ensure that it met all their needs.
Soon after the home was completed, Barbie experienced the Law of Unintended Consequences. Her son was injured in a job related accident that severely damaged his hip and he returned home to convalesce in a wheelchair. The home she had designed with her aging parents in mind was now being used by her injured son. He questioned whether or not the home was truly accessible and found out very quickly that it was. Soon he was wheeling all over the house.
Barbie’s son has recovered and gone back to work, and Barbie can rest easy knowing that when her parents come to visit (or move in), the home has been “tested” and will meet all of their accessibility needs.