Why the caregiver and the wheelchair rider need universal design in
“Jane” (not her real name), age 36, is the primary caregiver for “Louise” who has
If homes are built with Universal Design, it would allow my roommate, Louise, to
enter and exit the apartment and building independently. This would free me
from scheduling my day and work hours around her trips in and out of the home.
She would also be able to enter the washroom/kitchen to wash her hands in the
sink, to bathe in the bathroom and not on the bed/wheelchair. This would make
it easier for me to assist her with her daily hygiene and require less strain on my
back when helping her perform these tasks.
Universal design would also have spaces designed to accommodate assistive
devices like a Hoyer lift to transfer Louise between the bed and her wheelchair.
For now, it takes a fair bit of shuffling and removing of dressers and normal
bedroom storage furniture to make room for a lift.
I would love to have an accessible kitchen where Louise could participate in
meal preparation and have access to the balcony to enjoy the garden or the
view. She loves cooking and has not been able to participate in meal
preparation for more than 4 years.
We should be able to utilize every part of our living space, especially the
common spaces that are usually shared.
Louise, age 45, uses a 500 pound electric wheelchair due to MS. She writes:
Universal design would enable me to do fundamental things that most people take
for granted. I would be able to open the front door to my apartment because I
would have a device that would unlock it and hold it open, and the doorway would
have no lintels or barriers that I would need assistance crossing. My apartment
building would have similar devices in the hallways and throughout the building so
I would be able to move freely and socialize as I liked.
Right now, if I don’t have help leaving my apartment, I have to stay home.
In the world with Universal Design, my bathroom would have a doorway wide
enough for a wheelchair, and it would have a shower that I could drive into. That
would make the difference between being able to wash my hair in the shower, and
having my hair washed over a basin in the hallway.
The social importance of universal design can’t be ignored either. Too many
discussions with family or friends about plans for get-togethers and celebrations
finish with the sad conclusion that I won’t be able to participate because stairs
prevent me from even getting into their building. It’s gotten to the point where I
assume that I won’t be able to take part in social gatherings because if I can’t get
around in my own living space, why should I expect that I would be able to in