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Accessible University provides mobility-challenged Calgarians with online resource

Calgarians with limited mobility have access to a new online resource to help make their homes more accessible.

Accessible University, an initiative the non-profit Accessible Housing Calgary organization launched in September, provides room-by-room renovation guides, as well as lists of resources such as contractors and funding assistance.

“We get at least a phone call a day from someone who needs help,” said Nicole Jackson, research and policy co-ordinator with Accessible Housing, which traditionally provides barrier-free living arrangements to low-income disabled Calgarians.

“A lot of those people are calling us about retrofitting their homes. There’s a big knowledge need in the community.”

According to the recently released Canadian Survey on Disability, about 10 per cent of Calgarians identify as having a disability, including physical, sensory and chronic pain. Yet less than one per cent of homes in the city are accessible.

“There are people in the community who are just making their homes work,” said Jackson.

This unsafe environment increases the risk of injury; Jackson gave the example of a mom and daughter who broke bones in their upper bodies when trying to lift their disabled family member out of the tub.

“There’s a lack of knowledge of what potential solutions are out there and which ones have funding support,” said Jackson. “Our goal for the website is very much to provide a one-stop shop with accurate and current information.”

Educational resource for all

Accessible University isn’t intended to only be a guide for Calgarians with limited mobility. Jackson said the site will also help educate key professionals who work with the disabled, including real estate professionals.

“By getting familiar with the main features of accessibility, some of the questions that might be helpful to ask and some of the other great publications out there, we’re hoping Accessible University can increase the knowledge capacity and expertise of the real estate profession itself when it comes to accessibility,” she said.

“By walking clients through all the different dimensions of accessibility, our hope is this increased knowledge can help make the process of finding a workable home – or a renovate-able home, as is more frequently the case – easier.

“The idea is that being better able to articulate needs helps to narrow the search and focus on the most must-have accessibility features, and the things that should be considered for renovation.”

User-friendly resource

Accessible University is an information hub that breaks down complex building codes and what needs to be considered for barrier-free improvement projects.

Included are details on:

• How to plan home modifications based on personal situations and needs, and the physical space;

• Room-by-room guides that outline typical modifications, recommended measurements, layout and cost estimates;

• A list of products to consider, such as toilets, sinks, countertops and ramps;

• Accessible Housing-approved professionals, including contractors and occupational therapists; and,

• Governmental, charitable and insurance financial assistance programs.

The site also provides a checklist of things individuals with limited mobility should consider when looking to purchase or rent a home.

“Someone with a spinal-cord injury once commented to us that, in her search for a home, she’d often remember to look for the basics – level entryway, workable bathroom – but forget things like an accessible parking stall for her adapted vehicle,” said Jackson.

“By condensing this into a checklist, we’re hoping to give people tools so they don’t miss these types of details.”

Jackson added there are plans to expand Accessible University to include webinars and lunch-and-learn presentations on specific topics such as home automation.

For more information, visit www.accessibleuniversity.com.

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