January 21, 2018

$10 or $1000, Choose

Last week I wrote about visitability. Today I’m surfing the ‘net and discover in the Justice for All blog that the Inclusive Home Design Act (IHDA) has been reintroduced in the House by U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. On a metaphysical note: start thinking and speaking the world you wish to have, and it will show up.

This legislative history of visitability begins with Eleanor Smith who formed the advocacy organization, Concrete Change; she has been unwavering in her commitment to initiate this paradigm shift in design through making new homes visitable to all. The result would be an inclusive society. Seemingly an obvious evolution in residential home design, there has been little voluntary progress in the past decade. For this reason, Eleanor Smith believes that we must legislate the minimum standards that would make a home visitable. She’s right.

The primary resistance appears to the burden of cost. The reality is that the added cost in new home construction is minimal, 1-2%. Put another way, to purchase and install a wider door adds $10.00 to the cost of the doorway. Should you need to widen a door as a remodeling project, the cost will be around $1,000.00. The financial logic is simple. Choose.

But that’s not what the kicking and screaming is about. The resistance is a consciousness widely practiced in this country that believes it, everything, is someone else’s responsibility. A simple story illustrates my point.

I am driving on a road that has a rocky cliff on one side and a river on the other. Traffic is moving slow as drivers maneuver around a 50 pound bolder that has fallen on the road. Soon it is my turn to negotiate with oncoming traffic. Instead I stop and ask my son to hop out and move the bolder to the side; this takes about 20 seconds. As drivers pass me, they give me a thumbs-up. What was happening, I assert, was that every driver felt that it was someone else’s responsibility to move with this bolder, yet they knew what the right action was – they just didn’t make the connection until they saw it happening. It seemed more normal to live with the troublesome reality than to take 20 seconds to resolve it.

What I am hoping is that as a nation we are ending this mindset. The other drivers who gave the thumbs-up knew what was the right thing to do; seeing my actions reminded them of this fundamentally American way. We do care, we are responsible and we do know what needs to be done. We have been lulled into a deep sleep and are awakening.

People who experience limitations in mobility are being treated just like this boulder in the road by a nation who knows what’s right but just hasn’t been very proactive lately. I truly believe this is changing and that the unfortunate times we are living in are our wake-up call. President Obama has appointed Kareem Dale to fill the a newly created position as special assistant to the president for disability policy. Eleanor Smith continues to push for visitability legislation. And by U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky is reintroducing the Inclusive Home Design Act.

Konrad Kaletsch
Universal Design Resource
Universal Design Network at Facebook and LinkedIn
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