Barrier-free homes: Lessons from the three little pigs
The first little pig built a beautiful home of the latest style with four levels, including a sunken living room and a raised bathroom. Everywhere you looked were wonderful solid oak stairways. All the doors were fitted with the most expensive round, crystal door knobs, the taps had hand-painted round porcelain tops - only the very best! Now the big bad wolf realized he could not blow such a solid house down, so instead, he cast a spell that inflicted the pig with terrible arthritis. How the pig's joints ached, how stiff he got and every step was agony. Going up and down stairs was the worst, up and down, up and down all those solid oak stairs. His fingers hurt, especially when trying to use the beautiful taps and door handles. He realized he could not live in his mansion and had to sell, at an enormous loss, to the wolf's cousin.
The second pig built his own modest home, a bungalow. To keep costs down he made the doors, corridors and rooms as snug as possible. When the wolf came, he again realized he could not blow this solid built house down. So instead he inflicted the pig with a condition that required he use a wheelchair. The poor pig scraped his knuckles to the bone on the walls of the narrow corridor just to find, once he reached it, that the bathroom door was too narrow to let him in! The kitchen was too small to get near the stove or fridge and he could not reach any cupboards. This poor pig had to sell and move in with his sister and her seventeen delinquent children.
The third pig's family were all getting older and it was time to look towards retirement. He wanted to either renovate his present home or build a new one. He had seen what had happened to the other two pigs, so before taking hammer and saw in hand, he did some planning. He talked to the occupational therapist from home care, he went to the Council of the Disabled, he went to the library; he talked to a couple of friends who use wheelchairs and he learned about barrier free design. With this information, he designed his home, but a check list will show a spacious, accessible bathroom and kitchen, ground level entry, lever arm faucets and dozens of other details.
The big bad wolf tried and tried to force the pig from his home. He gave him a broken hip, a mild stroke, burnt hands and gout. The poor pig needed crutches, a walker, a wheelchair, splints, support hose and a neck brace, but whatever happened he could still manage in his comfortable home. The wolf failed, was fired and was last seen selling brushes door to door.
The moral of this tale is that housing decisions made now may affect how practical and manageable your home will be for you in the future should you become frail or suffer ill health. Good building design and finishing choices add no or little cost if built in at the start whereas altering poor design later can be very expensive. Good choices still give a wide variety of designs to allow your home to be individualized and unique. Most barrier free aspects of design will make the home easier to manage for all users, not just for a disabled user. Such a home is insurance against the possibility of the owners facing altered physical capabilities in the future. It is also a sound investment. If for sale, the house will appeal to a wide spectrum of buyers willing to pay top dollar for all the built-in barrier free features.
What a wise little pig!
Adapted from The Three Little Pigs - Sort Of! By Occupational Therapist Adrian Good. Submitted to the CAOT Seniors Health Promotion Project in 1991.
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