Access-A-Hut's Blog

* Disabled access

How we got there:

I have been trawling the web and blog-o-sphere and doing research since August 2009, when we decided we really would take the plunge and live in a tiny house. I am a damn good researcher–I do that for a living. I’ve found tons of stuff on how to build a house, and tons on universal access, and some on tiny houses, and a lot of folks telling us to consider assisted living. But I have not found one single page that combines the terms “tiny house” and “handicap access.”
No such info.

But Lloyd of Shelter Publications is writing a book on tiny houses. And I asked him to include materials on accessibility. And he is going to!! Huzzah!! What a lovely holiday present!

However, he wants our insights into this process. So here is a summary of our blog entries and troubles. Remember, we are not anywhere near the construction field, design field, or even disability field. We just want a home we can LIVE in. And I guess the other problem is that everyone with disabilities is different. We are planning for mobility issues, a mobility dog, oxygen, exhaustion/fatigue, and possible hospital-like intrusions into our happy home. Your (s)mileage may vary.

So… A guided tour. First–who we are and why we are doing this in the first place. (Whew! has it only been 4 months!)

Our thought process has evolved over this time:

  • Realizing that yes, we have problems and we really have to do this. (I can’t walk in a house, MaJe can’t go anywhere without tripping over oxygen, and we need to think out of the box for our long-term care.)
  • Doing a decision worksheet—we re-purposed an employment ADA sheet and applied it to the house. You could create something like this as a way to determine individual needs for a handicap accessible house.
  • Finding to our horror that you can not simply build a tiny house in a caretaker’s backyard in Denver because of the #$%^% code—even with proposed changes!
  • Trying to build and buy to comply with Denver’s zoning and finding out that we could not buy and build on a tiny lot in Denver because Land Costs!and the minimum house size in Denver is 600 sf and we wanted much less.
  • Finding an incredible property in Denver with three existing structures: a larger house (for our caretakers), a tiny house (for us) and a garage!!! (We are still thanking Providence, the Lady, and any other name you care to give the Diety.) But we can’t blog about it because—horrors! We might not get the loan! (Actually, that was the worst time in our entire lives—including cancer and other horrors. We knew it was a rare opportunity and buying now was a nightmare…)

.

As we could not find anyone doing this, and I felt betrayed by tiny houses that I couldn’t even get into, we got political:

  • What about an entire accessible community? Given the choice between a 10 by 6 room in a nursing home or your own 10 by 15 home—which would YOU choose?
  • Someone out there should advocate for tiny homes for the disabled, and here is why!

And then we found these resources and ideas for access. For our notes, we just copied wholesale—but did attribute. So let me apologize in advance for text-stealing and urge you to go to the original sources.

  • Chairs and wheelchairs\\\====access-a-hutHere is how we are addressing the disability access problems we’ve encountered–above and beyond the usual tiny home issues of planning space, getting zoning, and “dropping out” of the stuff culture to live with what we truly need–and truly cherish what we have. So here goes:
    • Lofts. Most tiny tiny houses have the bed as a loft. This makes sense, as you need more floor space and less head space to sleep. But we can’t get up to a loft. The house we ended up buying does have a nice, sturdy attic. And we do need heated storage for my macs (which play my oldest elit work). So we are cutting the attic in two, leaving part for storage and vaulting the ceiling so my tall tall love does not feel boxed in.
    • Bed space. That leaves the problem of where the beds go. Right now, it looks like they will take up about half the floor space. We are going to move in with temporary air beds (even though the contraption dumped me out last night and I couldn’t move). And then figure it out. But we have three potential floor plans (one with the beds in an L shape and two with the beds together).
    • Bathroom. We have a head start on this one–our current bathroom has no door because we had to take it off early on so I could get into it. So we are used to the idea of no bathroom door. We will have a full length shower curtain all the way around the bathroom. We are also knocking out the bathroom wall so we can have a roll in shower with a downward drain.
    • Doors. The current door is 32 inches–which gives me one inch on either side of my tiny wheelchair. (I am in a 15 inch chair–which is smaller than an adult’s, but bigger than a child’s). So we are going to solve two problems at once (maximizing light and flow through). We are knocking out 9 feeet of a 15 foot wall to give me a patio sliding glass door. This can have a lever on it that a dog can pull–so when I can’t do it, the future service dog can.
    • Oxygen compressor. The noise of that thing drives us batty from three rooms away. So we are going to build a cabinet with sound proofing andput it by MaJe’s bed. She can use the front of the cabinet to be a desk side bed (or a bed side eating tray) and the space above it we will turn into her shelves so she can reach her books and her stuff in bed.
    • Chairs and indoor access. Not sure yet. However, I am thinking: outdoor/lawn chair/wheelchair to go between the house and the car. Inside, a tiny wheeled office chair (if both of my legs are out, I can grab onto stuff and pull me along as there won’t be that much room). Then keep my regular chair in the car–parked in our gated compound. ‘
    • Litter box. Have absolutely no clue whatsoever. Maybe under the sink with a cat door?

    ===original: Here is a running list of the current problems we need to (want to/good exercise to) cogitate upon…. get those cogs rolling!

    Zoning. Be extremely lucky and get a grandfathered in carraige house.

    Oxygen in the walls just like in hospitals. Still working on this one. We are thinking of having a carpenter who works with theaters build us a sound proof box that would triple as a writing desk (pull out the lid so you can write on it) and a shelf and position it just right over the window. Or put a small fan in it. We still like the idea of getting a car-wash type spinner on the ceiling to play out the tubing… but that may just take care of itself in the smaller house.

    A well ventilated BUT COMPLETELY separate utility
    closet as the noise from the oxygen drives us batty
    in a huge 700 sf home.
    . Yep. Still working on it. see above.

    Enclosed area for the pad-trained dog –we had to give our dog to a friend because the place was just too miserable for her–with small dogs on both sides, a big dog in the house, and kids everywhere…
    and the howling-to-go-outside cat. Still not sure where to put the litter pan.

    Keeping maintenance as low as possible, including yard if we go with a purchase option. working on it.

5 Comments »

  1. Yes, we need tiny, wheelchair/handicap accessible homes! My son is thinking of starting such a business…. he’s been a contractor for a company for 30 years, does it all, from excavating and installing septic, to masonry foundation, electric, plumbing, and his favorite part building the house and making it really beautiful.. boomers # increasing, not wanting to have to maintain big homes or to go to assisted living. Lets make them their own little efficient and accessible homes! evie

    Comment by evie — February 13, 2013 @ 3:00 am |Reply

    • Sorry__I had abandoned this site because I am happy living in my house, and no longer need a research site. But yes, where are you at? Let’s revive the effort for accessible houses!

      Comment by accessahut — October 20, 2013 @ 9:59 pm |Reply

  2. I would love to see pictures of a wheelchair accessible tiny house. Our son is 21 years old and living at home. This would be a wonderful compromise for us. He could be close but have independence and we as his parents could have some privacy.
    .

    Comment by Elise — March 19, 2013 @ 11:12 am |Reply

  3. I am delighted to find this. My husband and I are newly ensconced in a 1 bedroom apartment for the elderly and handicapped. I hate hate hate apartments, even though this one is in a 1 story building and fairly quiet. But no privacy unless we lock ourselves in,when what I really need is to sit outside with a cup of tea and listen to the birds. Just left Denver this Summer due to lack of resources and no family there, and I am in absolute withdrawal for the sunshine, snow, public transportation, many supportive friends, organic foods, medical options…but no place we could afford to live, and no jobs adequate to improve our situation. My husband has a rare cancer, fighting it for over 15 years, a bone disease that will ultimately calcify his joints, arthritis, balance problems, diabetes, and more, and I am suffering from arthritis since childhood, an unidentified balance disorder, celiac disease, chronic pain…so I am in total sympathy/empathy for your situation. We are very drawn to the tiny house movement, but like you have found it extremely narrowly focused on the fit, trim, and healthy. I am not only wanted to help advocate for those like us, and those who will be, but want to find ways to actually use existing technology work. I have an additional suggestion for compact designs and equipment that could be repurposed for the physically limited-yacht and boating designs include equipment and designs that are ultra compact and super efficient. I also suggest looking into ambulance makers for compact, portable, and potentially quieter O2 options.

    Comment by Denise Frickey — October 19, 2013 @ 10:29 pm |Reply

  4. FYI, I have tried for the last half hour to Like you, but get sent to WordPress log-in page, which will neither let me Like through Facebook, nor create an account, instead insisting that I have an account-I don’t-and have forgotten my password-can’t forgot what I never had. This may be happening to other would be followers, and will thus impede a good blog idea. Nor do I particularly want a blog account at this time.Help!

    Comment by Denise Frickey — October 19, 2013 @ 10:56 pm |Reply


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