RE: Including People With Disabilities?
From: bdsullivan (
Date: Sat, 13 Jan 1996 12:45:09 -0600
>Bob Jones asked:
>>    Do any cohousing communities have experience with including members
>>    with severe disabilities?
RS said>>
>>    I beleive Muir commons did some retrofit work, late in their project to
>>    accomodate a child in a wheelchair.
         We currently have no person chairbound, but probably
>>    will eventually as folks age and such.  We had a summer visitor who was
>>    chair bound and it taught us a lot about the difficulty of things such
>>    as opening doors!

This gets to a topic referred to as ADAPTABLE HOUSING. The concept is
simple. Design homes for us at later stages in our life when we may be
wheelcahir bound or have another disability (see Judith Wisdoms message.).
This applies for even short term injuries that confines one to a
wheelchair, limitations of movement, sight and other disabilities. In
adaptable housing, not all features for the disabled are built initially,
but key elements that require additional space are planned for. Also if a
later change would be impossible or expensive, they are typically planned
for in the initial design too (eg, larger bathrooms.) The basic idea is to
build a house and site that requires minimal effort to "Adapt" to the needs
of the Disabled.

The advantage of designing for the future "lifestage" of your family is
that you are not forced to move as you get older! Benefits of these
strategies are many. First it makes your community accessible to friends
right now (see RS comment above.) Second, it allows residents to stay as
they age. This is good because it allows the community to maintain an age
mix and allows a community to help others as they age. It also prevents
someone from having to sell their "family" (or in this case "community")
house where they have built up many memories and attachments over the
years! In fact moving when you are older ( and after becoming disabled) is
one of the most tramatic experiences of ones life. I remember one
specialist in the field once telling me that there is an abnormal rate of
death after such moves (I don't remember the exact numbers.)

 Adaptable housing considers many things such as:
the width of all doors
adapatable cabinets in kitchens
wheelchair accessible buildings (all)
at least one bedroom on the ground floor.
Bathrooms that can be altered for grab bars etc.

There are more. Since I have been overseas for 6 years, there may be a new
term for adaptable housing. ( I may even be using political incorrect terms
for other disabilities so please forgive me)  It may even be part of local
codes by now. Does anyone in the States know of current publications
covering this topic?

Brian Sullivan

Brian D. Sullivan, Lecturer
Department of Architecture
Chinese University of Honk Kong
email  bdsullivan [at]

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.