Re: upstairs in common house and wheelchair accessibility
From: cynthia . e . carpenter (
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 10:50:30 -0500
I wanted to add another perspective to this discussion, too.  (Sorry it's
so late - I've had posting problems related to a change in my email
address.)  Cambridge Cohousing is now in the final stages of construction.
Eleven families have moved in; 30 more to go as soon as we can complete our
walk-throughs and get our certificates of occupancy - very exciting.  We're
also in the final stages of budget over-run - very distressing.  So I can
*really* relate to concerns about the expense of accessibility design.
Despite this, I would say to groups looking at the design/expense
trade-off:  Don't make *anything* in your cohousing inaccessible unless you
personally (and every other member, and all of your friends and families)
would be willing to *never* have access to that room/area.  None of us know
what life holds for us, and it may be the person who least expects it who
will most need to have the accessible design.

One of the messages in this discussion (the one listing accessibility
specs) was circulated on our local Cambridge Cohousing list, which
triggered a discussion that included the message below from of our members.
Her husband uses a "scooter" to get around, and his membership in our group
reminds us daily of why accessibility is not just an irksome legal

I asked her if I could post her message to the national list, and she said
"Thanks -- I would love to have you post my note.  Please feel free to add
whatever you like -- for example, that Richard is 48, has MS, works 50+
a week as a software developer, has a 9 year-old daughter, etc.
"I really was afraid we'd end up in some ugly suburban building just
because it
had an elevator.  Sometimes I still can't believe our luck in moving into
cohousing right in our own neighborhood.  (Cambridge is particularly short
accessible housing.)"

Her original message:
>I'm still horrified by the number of times we're told that some
>store, etc., is "wheelchair accessible" when it really is not.  A recent
>example was the Newton Symphony concert at Aquinas College (one of my best
>friends was singing).  I was assured on the phone (by someone I knew,
>that there was a ramp and the building was accessible.  There was a ramp,
>there were also eight steps to get to the level of the auditorium.  Very
>I think our common house was designed from the beginning with these specs
>you've taken from the list ( I'm pretty sure I've heard both Gwen and
>mention such standards and regulations in the design of the common house
>It means so much to Richard and me that the architect/developers, with the
>input of our fellow cohousers, have made the site work for him.  Not many
>people in Cambridge have accessible homes.  (Not even Richard's sister and
>But I'm puzzled as to why the writer says that such a list would "make
>people irascible."  Is it because of the expense?  I can understand that,
>it's pretty shortsighted.  Someday, that person or someone they love will
>probably need some help to get around.  And wouldn't it be nice if they
>have to move to some sterile facility, but could stay in their own cozy
>cohousing home?
>In gratitude --
>Ann JB

- Cindy Carpenter (Cambridge Cohousing)

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