005: Small garages don’t work well.

Good Fit Poor Fit
Good Fit Poor Fit
005: Small garages don’t work well.

Show notes

This is the home mentioned about four and a half minutes into the episode, designed by our good friend David Watson.

Front of a house with a large garage on the right, flat driveway, and a sloped path to the front door.


[00:00:31] Welcome to episode five. We’re sharing about how the design of the garage and driveway impacts the ability of people to get in and out of their vehicle. This will help you understand how individual needs and the design of the environment results in either a good fit or a poor fit. It’s the little things that make a big difference. It’s Sarah at the microphone today, and I’m going to share about the parking situation at my parents’ home.

[00:00:54] If you haven’t already heard through some of our previous posts or podcasts, my husband, Scott has a spinal cord injury and uses a manual wheelchair to get around. We typically store his wheelchair in the back of our Subaru Outback and I lift it in and out when we’re together. We also have a one-year-old, so needless to say, when we travel, we don’t travel light.

[00:01:15] As a side note, my parents have done many things in their home to make it more usable for Scott, and we are so grateful for that. However, the process of getting inside could be easier if their home was designed differently from the start. Just to give you a lay of the land, they live in a condo with a small garage.

[00:01:31] It may look pretty spacious at first glance. However, as most of us have in our homes, there is storage along the front and sides to keep all of their extra stuff organized, including tools, a deep freezer, trash, recycling, and exercise equipment. There’s also a step to get in the house from the garage, and my dad graciously constructed a ramp with a landing so Scott could get inside easily.

[00:01:55] This does, however, take up at least three feet of floor space. Generally, we park out in the driveway, but when it’s raining, we pull inside the garage to not get soaked. Scott is usually the one driving and I’m in the passenger seat with the car seat behind me. Before Scott can pull into the garage. He stops in the driveway so I can get out. 

[00:02:16] To pull into the garage, he has to hug the right side of the garage, super close with the car, so there’s room for him to open the driver’s side door wide enough to get out on the driver’s side so he has room for his wheelchair without running into the storage along the wall. This means I wouldn’t have room to get myself or my daughter out when we’re in the garage.

[00:02:38] So I typically hop out first and leave my daughter in the car seat. She’s currently not trusted alone outside of the car while I grab his chair, so she stays put for now. As Scott pulls the car into the garage, I guide him from the front to make sure he’s not hitting a side mirror on the workbench on the passenger side, and that he’s not driving the driver’s side wheel up the ramp. Once we’re in place, he turns off the car and I move the trash cans out of the garage to give myself enough space to get his chair out of the trunk and wheel it between the car and the edge of the garage door opening. I help Scott get out of the car and into his chair. He gets up onto the ramp and wheels into the house while I crawl into the back seat and get our daughter out of the car seat, plus grab all of our extra bags that we may have.

[00:03:28] It’s a process. Like I said, we don’t do this every time, but only in bad weather. It is nice to have a covered option so we don’t get soaked. But otherwise, if the weather is nice, we typically park outside in the driveway. Thankfully, the surface of the driveway is concrete. It’s not like thick gravel that Scott would sink into and it’s in pretty good condition, but the driveway is sloped from side to side plus forward and backward. At times, the slope makes it difficult for Scott to get in and out of the car easily without his manual wheelchair rolling away. It could mean the difference between needing some help or a lot of help. For people with mobility issues, it can be extremely difficult to visit friends and family in their homes, since homes are not often accommodating to people who use wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, or canes. This has a huge effect on mental health and social participation. Plus many people are thinking through this entire process each time they consider going somewhere. 

[00:04:25] In the show notes, you’ll see a render of the exterior of a home designed by industrial design student David Watson. It has a nice flat wide driveway and a spacious garage. One thing that designers and builders need to consider is the size of a garage.

[00:04:41] Now, I know that many sites try to pack in as many homes as they can, but we’ve had friends whose compact cars don’t even fit into the garage of a new home. They end up parking in the driveway and use the space for storage. Creating extra space on the sides, front and back of the garage for storage plus room to open the vehicle door fully for easy in and out of the vehicle is essential… And honestly helpful for anyone, whether they have difficulty with mobility or not.

[00:05:10] When designing the driveway, we find it easier for the surface to be smooth without gaps and cracks with it being concrete or asphalt. It is also helpful for the driveway to have a flat section to park on that doesn’t slope too much.  This is nice for people who need that for safety but also beneficial for washing your car or for the kids playing outside.

[00:05:31] This is just one example of how the design of an inside and outside parking area for a home can be a poor fit for people who live there or people who are visiting. With some forethought into the site prep when building the home, as well as thinking through how someone would actually use the garage for organization and getting in and out of their cars, these areas can be made a good fit for all users.

[00:05:55] I hope you learned a few tips for increasing the functionality of a parking area. I look forward to sharing more stories with you in the near future.


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