2019-03-11 Posted By Jenna Reed-Cote
What does “home” mean to you?
How does it make you feel?
What do you feel you can do and be in your home?
For almost 30 years I didn’t realize what a home could mean for the mind, body and spirit, and then I renovated it utilizing universal design.
Why did it take me so long? I was still in denial about my identity as it related to my spina bifida. For as long as I can remember I have been fighting to show the world (and myself) that spina bifida isn’t who I am and would not dictate what my life would become. I was trying to take away the power I thought my diagnosis had on my life, but, of course, I was just giving it more power than I ever thought.
First of all, do you know what universal design is? “Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.” However, this is not how most of the world thinks of this - at its core - inclusive way of designing (and I was one of those people). Most people are still under the impression that when one is adapting their space to be more accessible it is being made to look more medicalized. This is not anyone’s first choice for their home, and so, it seems to be the lesser of two evils to just try and make your space work for you as is, because if you’re like me, you’ve spent way too much time at the hospital already.
Here’s the thing though, universal design can make a space feel sophisticated and classy and cozy and inviting. Yes, it can make a space easier to use, but it won’t scream to your guests “DISABLED PERSON LIVING HERE!” In fact, because little features can be added to your space to make things easier to use, that ease makes you seem more competent, efficient and independent!
But why am I telling you this? Well, my place was recently featured on Global TV’s Open House to shed some light on accessible homes. I wanted people to see what a universally designed space could look like, with so many misconceptions floating around that are so damaging to what we feel is our potential. I hope it helps to see someone who has struggled for so long to finally say that by adapting my space I am opening doors for myself to growth and potential, not shining a light on my limitations. Finally, I wanted people to see how the features I just happened to add to support my life that just happen to come with spina bifida could also help you - whether you have spina bifida or not. I believe with all my heart that if we open up this conversation, universal design will become commonplace, creating more demand and lowering the outrageous costs so that people who need it for safety, independence and confidence can finally feel that they are home.