Reaching for the Stars (And the Coffee Cups)

Women playing harp and violin

Our family first became aware of which buildings, homes, stages, and other venues are wheelchair accessible when the youngest member took up harp. This is a heavy, delicate, and awkward instrument to move, and it is best done on a specialized dolly. Wheels. You use wheels.

We discovered which routes to take to safely enter a building avoiding stairs, where the elevators are, and which spaces are too tight to turn a harp around. We bought a vehicle based on how well it carried a harp with passengers. Awareness is the first step toward enlightenment. We started to ‘get’ the problems that people with various physical limitations face in public and at home.

By now, Americans have figured out that people in wheelchairs need ramps and sight-impaired people need braille within reach. But there are also circumstances that require less than a full-on home remodel to help an elderly parent age in place, or help a teenager with a broken leg survive for a few months in her two-story home.

Many people consider these possibilities when building a new home, or designing a remodel. It helps if you have planned at least one bedroom/bathroom for the first floor, if you have at least one outside door that does not involve a step down onto a yard or walkway, and if you have enough mid-level storage that someone who is not in a position to reach either high or low can retrieve the necessities. Mentally walk through the home to see if it will accommodate friends in wheelchairs or using walkers.

Turning radius, width of doorways, levelness of floor/ground, and storage/work/bathroom areas that accommodate a seated person are the really big considerations for a wheelchair user. Levelness of floor and storage that can be accessed by a person on crutches or a walker are crucial for someone healing from an accident or surgery. Written characters that are large enough and high-contrast enough for dimming vision, a smoke detector made for hearing impairment, toilet seats on risers, wider doorways, even flooring, and storage accessible from knee level to shoulder height can keep a senior in her home longer than a house that does not have these features.

There are so many sites that will help you understand accessibility considerations at home, and I have pulled up a few to get you started.

The Design Book from Paralyzed Veterans of America

Accessible Home Design

Checklist from ‘Mobility Management’

A Dreamy Wheelchair Accessible Apartment

Women playing harp and violin
Two of the musical residents in our decidedly inaccessible home- we had portable ramps for all the step-ups and step-downs, the front walkway, the front porch, ad infinitum

Some builders will add support inside walls where grab bars can be installed in the future. They will design a bathroom with a roll-in shower and a toilet that has room for a wheelchair to pull up alongside, even if you don’t need these features at this time. When these features are designed in from the beginning they are often not noticeable as special accessibility features, and they have more appealing aesthetics than rooms that have been retrofitted after the need arises. If you are working with a builder to create a new, accessible home, make sure that the builder’s specifications actually meet your needs! A few inches can make the difference between a usable and an unusable space for you.

The New Home and Garden Show

Right here, in Dripping Springs, home to thousands of new homes in the next few years- The First Annual Home and Garden Show today and tomorrow. March 25-26, 10-7 on Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park on Ranch Road 12.

Sponsored by Rotary Club of Dripping Springs, Harvest Rain, and Hill Country View, there is also a kid entertainment zone provided by Costco. They advertise builders, contractors, materials, decks, pools, spas, entertainment systems, storage, plants, landscape displays/materials, and kitchenware information and products on display. With plenty of parking, this sounds like a great day to me!

“What’s in it for ME?”

Functional Friday- a Pop-up Bed

If you have a small home, or you have a double- or even triple-use room, there’s nothing like a drop-down Murphy bed to provide a comfortable mattress and a good night’s sleep for a guest, or yourself. And, it becomes part of the background the rest of the time. In fact, I have one in my home office that has integrated cabinetry and bookshelf.

There are two types of drop-down bed: they both use springs and a counter-balance method to fold a mattress from flat against the wall to horizontal sleeping space. One is a flat-panel look and the flat panel folds forward to support the mattress. The other is a folding-door look; the doors fold open and the bed inside is pulled down from the wall. There are even folding-door styles which have bookshelves integrated into the doors, which either slide or fold out the way of the bed.

We (meaning my handy husband) have built two, and we actually uninstalled them both from one house and transported them and reinstalled them in a new house. Rockler Woodworking has a kit which includes the gas springs, hardware, a plan, and video instructions for building your own, which is what we did AND lived to tell about it.

Here is a photo of one of them when it was in its first location. I, being artsy and all, painted an abstract design on the front for my own entertainment.

Lynn_2013 07 22_0528.jpg

This same pull-down bed now sports attached bookcases on each side.

Before we built our two Murphys, we considered buying from More Space Place in Austin, which has a lot of different styles to blend with various decors.