Re: Including disabled people in cohousing, especially forming communities
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 22 Oct 2017 07:15:10 -0700 (PDT)
On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 3:28 PM, Allison Tom <allison.tom [at]> wrote:

> What strategies have groups explored or implemented to extend the
> cohousing goal of inclusivity to people with various disabilities?

The first step is accessibility. wheelchair access to all or at least most 
units. Be aware of abilities to negotiate stairs and porch steps. I recently 
looked at the plans for a new community that had NO accessible units. Steps up 
to each unit. Doors slightly too narrow. Even the CH wasn’t accessible. When I 
mentioned this to the organizer, who had worked very hard on this project, he 
was silent. It had never occurred to him. There are a lot of things to think 
about when building a whole residential complex and it’s a challenge for those 
who are not professional developers. It’s easy to overlook an obvious 

Even if one’s own unit is accessible, everyone should be able to visit, attend 
parties, etc.

This is important to some people all the time but important to everyone 
sometimes. People break ankles and legs at all ages. When one’s apartment is 
being renovated or has had major water damage, one has to be able to stay a few 
days in another unit or the guestrooms.

We have residents with serious physical challenges and other issues raised have 
not been a problem — namely workshare. There are a million things that need to 
be done that do not require the ability to leap tall buildings or scale high 
walls. The most important thing is that _everyone_ in the community take 
initiative for their own inclusion in the community. This may be obvious for 
someone who is not so capable physically but also with other life circumstances 
like having 8 children or a critically ill spouse or a job that requires long 
hours and travel. Self-sufficiency and initiative is still important. We are 
also blessed with several residents who are more than available for tasks like 
taking out your trash or picking up a prescription or changing the battery in 
your smoke detector.

We have people who rarely come to meetings but who are still involved and 
central to the life of the community. Others who rarely come to meals. Some who 
do their workshare jobs at midnight or three in the morning. 

Personally, I can’t imagine a community that wouldn’t make allowances for 
whatever limitations anyone has for whatever period of time — 3 months or three 
years. Like everything else in life it depends on personalities more than 
anything else.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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