Re: accessibility
From: Kate Adams (
Date: Fri, 10 Jul 1998 14:31:33 -0500
Cornerstone's commonhouse and main buildings (as designed and permitted)
are wheelchair accessable, and its townhouses are visitable (wheel up and
first floor accessible bathrooms).  This was a challenge since we have to
build multiple floors to save real estate for setback and open space
requirements and to have room for a common lawn, gardens, playground, etc.
We undertook it because several of our members were chair users and others
are headed in that direction.

Most modifications were simple:  36" wide doors and adequate turning radii
in halls, kitchens, and bathrooms.  The group decided to put in an
elevator, since we are talking about 3-4 floors with a garage below and all
would use it regularly.  There is still some debate over whether or not we
should have a normal height commode in the commonhouse bathroom in addition
to the accessible one, since the "accessible" one is way too high for
children and small stature adults to use comfortably.

It is very important to remember that accessability isn't just for feeble
elders and chair users, it is for EVERYONE!  You may be enabled now, but
tomorrow you can get into a car accident, break your leg, require surgery,
and otherwise become mobility impared no matter how young and in good shape
you are.

My husband severely broke his leg when I was eight months pregnant and
threatened with bedrest due to complications.  Our friends brought us meals
and groceries and cleaned and prepped our house for the baby, since we were
trapped in our apartment by the stairs.  I also had to set up the bath with
chairs and milk crates so that my husband could wash up without me having
to lift him (190 lbs with a foot-to-hip cast) into the bathtub (expressly
forbidden by my midwife).  Two years prior, I had to lift him into the tub
when he had a congenitally malformed heart valve replaced at age 31.  One
full member of our group broke her leg last winter and needed to have meals
delivered to her third floor apartment and have people come up and walk her
dog since she was shut in for a couple of weeks.  Others have had mobility
crises from time to time, or would like to move elderly parents into their

When we joined cornerstone, no one needed to convince me of the necessity
for an elevator and wide doorways and other simple changes.  Now that I
have two children, 5 mos and 2 years old, I am looking forward to easily
hauling kids and groceries in a wagon from the parking garage, up the
elevator, and to my unit through the wide doorways (instead of taking them
one-by-one into the house, then getting the groceries while Nick does God
knows what to his little brother Ian).  As a modern parent, I don't know
how people with strollers full of small people ever got out of the house or
around the neighborhood or went shopping without ramps, wide doors,
automatic doors, and numerous other "handicap" items.

My only concern:  children's security.  At age 16 months my older son
figured out that a wheelchair symbol meant that there was a door nearby
that he could open (either by pressing a low-mounted red button or by a
latch he could reach and use).  Accessability truly is for everyone -
babies too!

Kate Adams
Cornerstone Cohousing

 At 12:02 PM 7/10/98 -0500, Lynn Nadeau wrote:
>Dear Paul, 
>Separately I'll send you copies of 14 answers I received when I posted a 
>similar query in April 1998. I found the responses very useful, both in 
>consciousness-raising and in the nitty-gritty of how much does it cost to 
>have an accessible upstairs. 
>Here at RoseWind, in Port Townsend WA, we came to the following 
>a) Anybody could become mobility impaired. To make it not a priority 
>means that you are deciding that every one of you would, if unable to do 
>stairs, feel ok about not being able to access the rooms which are on the 
>second floor. And that you'd be comfortable with that decision into the 
>future, as guests and future residents might also appear who can't do 
>Which is a decision you might make, but we were not willing to do that.

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