meeting nonstandard needs (was Non-standardized houses?)
From: Kay Argyle (kay.argyleutah.edu)
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2008 16:52:09 -0700 (PDT)
>  Another way is to build a group that has a core mission of meeting the
needs
> of members, and investing time in educating your future neighbors about
the
> health and economic benefits ...

Getting your needs taken seriously will be easiest if you are a founding, or
at least very early, member of a group. You have a smaller number of people
to educate, and you get to help define the group's values and priorities.  

For instance, the values might include accommodating disabilities other than
mobility - which for some people defines "disability." It's difficult to get
people to take invisible disabilities seriously - they don't, for instance,
see asthma (literally or figuratively) as justifying inconvenience on their
part (speaking from unfortunate experience). 

"Meeting the needs of members" is too vague and broad to be practical.
Resources are finite, and needs unfortunately must be evaluated and
prioritized and sometimes declined.  I suspect most groups do this on a
case-by-case group without articulating any guiding principles, meaning they
are vulnerable to making rash promises to a prospect when they are in crunch
due to unsold units, as well as to having their good will traded on by prima
donnas. Deciding ahead of time on some criteria, both ethical and practical,
to assess needs might produce more rational decisions. 

Does meeting this need complement or compromise the core mission? What moral
obligation does the group have to meet this need? 

How negotiable is the need? A peanut allergy, for instance, is pretty
nonnegotiable.

How difficult will accommodating it be? Disabilities that require on-going
behavioral accommodation rather than a one-time physical modification
require more cooperation, and thus more of a commitment, from the group;
e.g., nobody ever wearing fragrance of any kind to meetings compared to
installing a wheelchair ramp. Sometimes you have a choice - to accommodate
people who don't function well in noisy settings, you can sound-dampen the
dining room or you can constantly shush everyone.  People too often get this
turned around - "We don't need to make this physical change; everybody can
just (something that requires major changes in habit or constant
mindfulness)" - then wonder why it didn't work. 

How much will it cost? A lot of things can be achieved at little or no
additional cost if considered early in design.

Will accommodation limit or improve flexibility of space usage, resales,
etc.? Even when it costs extra, accessibility can pay for itself by
increasing your pool of prospective buyers, or by keeping the residents you
already have, as they age.

Is this a good use of your resources? Our community would have been better
off persuading one member to rent space off-site for his work place (priorly
in his basement), instead of spending $50,000 enlarging one of the common
buildings for him to rent part of. That's a huge chunk of money to spend on
a need that could have been met in other ways. The member and his rent money
are long gone, and the space now gets an hour or two's use in a month, while
we have a crying need for a garden shed - but no money.

What are the consequences if the individual requesting this leaves the group
after it's too late to undo changes?  

Good will goes a long way, but it isn't enough. Experience has taught us to
ask a lot more questions. Some things we can tackle; some things we've
learned we shouldn't try.

You may notice I have avoided the term "special needs." In my experience,
people with nonstandard needs usually don't want to be special - they aspire
to be ordinary, if only the definition could be broadened a bit to include
them, as opposed to them being required to miraculously change to meet the
definition. (Ordinary people enter buildings, ordinary people read signs,
ordinary people support themselves with a job, ordinary people breathe
easily, ordinary people get married when they fall in love ....)

Kay


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