Accessible design: 6 elements for organizing a more inclusive home, according to people with disabilities
I like to sit, even when I have the energy to do many other things. Bar stools, folding chairs, sofas, and sofas emphasize my comings and goings, and I’ve long had a knack for converting a sturdy planter or low sidewalk into a place to remove cargo in case the need arises. I don’t think I’m alone in this – sitting is pretty cool, but I know why I let this love blossom from a young age. I was born with cerebral palsy, a disability that mostly affects my legs, so it’s difficult to stand or walk for long periods of time without feeling familiar pain. The same applies if you stay seated for long periods as well. So, to keep my muscles from stiffening and maintain my balance, I’ve learned to alternate between rest and movement whether I’m outside or at home.
There are details in public life that make it easier to support this endeavor, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990. Designated parking spaces, easy-to-find elevators, and ubiquitous curb drops are just a few examples of profound integration. Quietly, but individual home addresses present an entirely different challenge – since there is no law mandating accessible design in private spaces, the disabled community is usually on its own.
I interpreted the rake as a walking stick to climb the entrance stairs. I used the soap dish as a rock climbing grip to pull the rest of my body into the bathroom. I’ve leaned on too many branches to count. But through it all, I know I can usually count on one constant: somewhere behind the front door, there will undoubtedly be a place for me to sit. The criteria for what is best are not that complicated. I prefer a chair or sofa that’s fairly shallow, with cushions that don’t sink in too much, so I can get up and down in one easy motion. It’s ideal if there are arms on the sofas to hold on to in this endeavor, and long backs that can provide support when relaxation is the biggest concern.
My navy sofa from Living Spaces was a love at first sight purchase, as were these green chairs and oak dining table from Article. Each piece looks elegant, but also allows me to live comfortably in my surroundings. That’s the thing about accessibility: when it’s done well, it’s barely noticeable. Just like using curb cuts to lift a heavy bag or an elevator to take groceries upstairs, accessible design can benefit everyone. I asked six other friends with special needs about some items in their homes that meet this specific requirement in an accessible yet stylish way. Here’s what they swear by.
“I have a bright turquoise ottoman that looks cute in my space but isn’t meant for lounging. It’s actually what I use to help me put my compression socks and shoes on when I’m getting dressed. I pull my wheelchair up and put my legs and feet on top of it so I can reach them more easily. When I’m not using the ottoman For adaptive purposes, it provides a place for someone to sit if they wish. As a bonus, it can also be used as storage space. —Emily Ladau
“As someone who uses a wheelchair and enjoys a vintage look, finding the right desk can be an experience. My previous desk was nice, but I had to prop it up on cinder blocks to create enough room to roll my legs under it. This mid-length green desk took Century takes some time to find, but it offers the best of both worlds: style and function. —Rebecca Taussig
“The Toto Sink is a must-have for IBD. The heated seat keeps the cold at bay, the warm water wash provides gentle, thorough cleaning, and the adjustable air drying function reduces irritation. Inflammatory bowel disease can make life more difficult in many ways In and out of the shower, but a towel provides a little comfort. —Matthew Courtland
“I love the 66-inch daybed that my wife and I bought for our back deck. We had been living in a one-bedroom apartment for five years without any outdoor living space, so this was our first opportunity to set it up the way we wanted. It was important to me that it This daybed is capable of comfortably accommodating multiple adults when hosting us, so I outfitted it with a custom pillow. This comfort makes it an accessible daybed to use for long periods of time. Since I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I sometimes feel pain if I sit for too long in “One position. I work on it, watch movies from the projector on it, and talk to friends on it. It’s honestly one of my favorite pieces of furniture.” —Alaina Leary
“This bath caddy doubles as a seat, and I use it every time I shower, whether to put products on it or to sit on. I prefer not to have a big, sterile-looking shower chair that takes up a lot of space in my small bathtub, but I do need something that stays in place.” “It sits well and isn’t too slippery. It’s beautiful, and it’s a priority!” —Alex Wegman
“I swear by pull-down closet rods that can be purchased and installed in homes and apartments. They allow you to have full use of the closet.” – Stephanie Thomas
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