It's surprising how few places are truly wheelchair accessible. When calling around for dinner reservations asking about wheelchair accessibility, I have been told some silly things. “We have a portable ramp to get you in the front door but you should go to the bathroom before you come because our bathrooms are in the basement”; “Our bathrooms are upstairs but we have some big strong guys so it wouldn't be a problem carrying you up the stairs.”
I won't go to an unfamiliar restaurant by myself because someone always needs to check on the bathroom to see if it's navigable for a wheelchair. One time, we were already at the door of the restaurant, and asked if it was wheelchair accessible. They said “Yes” and when we asked to see their bathroom, they said,”No”!
It's helpful to know what wheelchair accessibility means. Very simply it is not safe for a wheelchair to traverse large changes in grade or steeply sloped ramps. Even though a ramp of any sort is better then steps, I would still require assistance using that ramp.
Accessibility to me means independence. I realize the world is not paved in ramps and if I insist on having new experiences and going unfamiliar places, I need assistance. But I think through some education and awareness, there are some things that can be easily done to make our existing environment more welcoming to those with mobility challenges.
Finding a property that suits your needs is an important first step. The design that will take the best advantage of that property will consider some very important factors: Exposure, Privacy and Views.
Orienting your house to the south with a design to maximize the sunlight can make it feel better to live in as well as making it more energy efficient, providing the extra benefit of lower operating costs.
Privacy is often dependent on the lot. How big it is, if hedges or fences are existing or appropriate and the addition of decks, railings and gates will all be determined by your own needs and lifestyle. Putting on a second storey might be a consideration that will give you more private space. The more populated an area is, the more difficult it may be to obtain privacy but I believe that with the right property and thoughtful design it is possible to achieve the level of privacy you want.
It can be great to look at a lake or river, a field, pond, gardens, your entry, backyard, maybe all of them. Keeping in mind that a wall provides more insulation value than a window, it will be of prime importance to find the best balance between solar gain, energy efficiency and the best views from your house.
While it can be challenging to design a house that maximizes all these elements, all are of prime importance and are major considerations when building a home.
We have come a long way from our grandparent’s kitchens, with one wall of basic cabinets and a couple of drawers for silverware. There are so many kitchen tools on the market, as well as small appliances, different kinds of glassware, dishes, serving dishes, utensils, etc.- and we have to have a place to put it all! This is where smart kitchen design and storage come into play.
It’s easy to build a kitchen with lots of storage, even in a smaller space. These days custom kitchen cabinet makers have tons of space saving and smart storage ideas, as does Ikea, which is a great place to go for inexpensive quality kitchen cabinets with clever solutions. Cabinets to the ceiling, pullouts for corner cupboards, lazy susans, and lots of drawers including pot drawers, are all great ways to maximize storage in a smaller kitchen.
We have all heard of the work triangle in a kitchen, where the sink, fridge and stove are laid out in a triangle for most efficient use. More contemporary is designing kitchens with “zones” in mind: clean up zone, prep zone, cooking zone. This thinking is more current as it allows for more than one cook in the kitchen, which more accurately reflects our modern way of life. I tend to think in terms of zones when laying out a kitchen. Zones don’t have to be huge, just provide the space that is needed for the designated task.
I am a big fan of an island in a kitchen. An island can provide another prep area, even in a small kitchen. In a larger kitchen, an island can be an eating area, a place for a second sink, a prep area, a buffet for large parties, and a gathering place for friends and family. You can also house the entire cleanup area in an island, or stash the microwave or cook top there and turn it into a cooking zone.
In our houses, we usually order custom kitchen cabinets from local manufacturers. We have a good relationship with our suppliers, get great service and it is important to us to support our local businesses, as we want them to do the same! Check out pictures of our kitchens at www.scottinc.ca and see what you think!