by JENNIFER THAYER on NOVEMBER 11, 2013
It’s not about me.
We walk through the home supply store in awe. There are so many different light fixtures and sparkling chandeliers. We brush our hands across bronze, brass, and nickel plumbing fixtures in every shape and size. The displays are perfectly set with tile floors and bath surrounds in every color.
Wow. Fun to look at, but overwhelming when you are now in the part of the building process where you have to select all of these details for your “forever home”. Add to that mind-blurring process, the tight budget set by our builder to help us keep in line while shopping for these house must-haves. That budget is set to accommodate for the handicap accessible necessities… the very reason we are building… a home for our King on his wheelchair throne.
Honestly, when Bryan and I had the house-building discussion. Neither of us was excited. We had never considered ourselves “new house” people. Both antique admirers and vintage collectors, we had wanted to remain in our 70’s built home with it’s hard woods and charm and continue to make it primitively warm with our eclectic tastes. Yet, fate had another plan. We had to get in the new home mindset.
So now it is planning and picking out all the essentials for a newly built home. Overwhelming… to say the least. Our builder is very helpful in the entire process. So many steps to it all and we felt clueless. Add to that the sadness we felt that we were leaving a place we loved and building because we “had to”… the process became stressful and kind of depressing.
When choosing our builder, we went with a family-owned company that has had experience building for people with disabilities. Upon first meeting Brian with TC Homes, we were impressed with his knowledge, laid-back, non-pushy-sales style. It also was a plus that Brian not only was a builder, but had a realtor license to help us sell our current home; two birds with one stone plus a little money saving incentive for having him act as both realtor and builder. Then when we saw a few of the barrier-free homes they built, we were sold on TC Homes. Beautiful, solid built homes with character. They didn’t just say, “Hello, I’m ready for a wheelchair”. They said HOME. Things seemed brighter.
After the sale of our home, Brian was helpful in exploring the lots in areas we liked. He gave us honest opinions about cost, lot dimensions, slope of the land, and tree clearing costs. Such an eye-opener. Finding a flat, clear, lot in an existing neighborhood became our goal. Bryan and I had discussions about how we might like to build in a private, woodsy setting and have some area to roam. Roa’s disability changed our views on that. This wasn’t about our views of a perfect home. Sidewalks and flat surfaces, kids in the neighborhood, little traffic became our go-to list. Disability before desire; our new motto.
We found a lovely setting in a neighboring town. The lot was small, but the association-run neighborhood had many playgrounds, walking trails, and a community pool. It also was a flat stretch of community with sidewalks leading to a variety of stores, small businesses, and even a therapy center for kids. Perfect! We were in! Things were looking up!
Yet the trouble with an association neighborhood is that the committee sets the rules.
Challenges of building an accessible home When our builder presented plan after plan (approximately 7 plans…I believe), the association simply kept turning them down. Our handicap-accessible one-story just didn’t fit their image of perfection amongst all the two- story homes with tucked behind garages. Fight for our right to build, some advised. We decided to step away. Who wants to live where your neighbors disapprove of you before you even break ground? Life is tough enough.
As luck has it, my husband and I drove through an area in our current city that happens to have a lot of new construction occurring. We found an empty flat lot, unmarked but since it was in the newly developing section of town, we had to find out about it. Bryan contacted the county, found the owner, made an offer, and done. We had our lot. AMEN!
So that brings us to today. Well behind on our building timeline, set up in a townhouse rental, and planning and processing all the lighting fixtures, outlet placements, and plumbing essentials we need. We are weighing-out tile verses vinyl verses wood… in this building venture that is so different from the typical decisions made by home-builders. Which faucet could Roa possible operate? Which floor is most friendly for wheelchair tracks? What should we include in the roll-in shower for fixtures?
Overall, my friends, today’s building advice for families with needs:
1) Accept the motto: Disability before desire. It makes the process a little more real instead of a pricey fantasy.
2) When choosing your location consider the long-term. Is this a terrain that a manual chair, powerchair, walker, or canes can maneuver? Is this a neighborhood where you will feel supported and accepted?
3) Choose a builder who understands. One who has done this before and isn’t overly pushy in an already overly stressful venture.
4) Look beyond the “for sale” signs. Our perfect lot was just an empty piece of land someone wasn’t yet using. Inquire. You never know.
5) Be flexible with your timeline. Yes, there are leases to sign, school days and summer days to consider, but this isn’t a perfect process and things sometimes don’t go as planned.
6) Always look on to the bright side. After this is all over and you have walls around you, cost efficient home essentials, plus wide open hallways and enough floorspace for your special one to independently roam…. You can look back and say, “This wasn’t about me, but it was so worth it!”