010: When you question if that backyard party is worth it or not

Good Fit Poor Fit
Good Fit Poor Fit
010: When you question if that backyard party is worth it or not

Show Notes

Here’s an image of the backyard described in this episode.

Picture of a backyard patio with raised garden beds and a fire pit. There is an entry into the home with no steps into the garage and into the main house.
Backyard exterior of the home completed in a pilot project at The Universal Design Project. Designed by David S. Watson.


[00:00:27] Hello, it’s Kati. Welcome to episode #10. We’re sharing about how the design of a backyard can impact someone’s ability to attend a social gathering. This will help you understand how individual needs and the design of the environment result in either a good fit or a poor fit. 

[00:00:44] It’s the little things that make a big difference.

[00:00:47] Attending a social gathering, like a neighborhood block party or a 4th of July barbecue, are events that a lot of people look forward to. I know I do! And it’s not unusual that events like these take place in a backyard setting. There, you can enjoy the fresh air, you can cook hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and maybe even sit by a fire and roast marshmallows to make s’mores. 

[00:01:09] These are actually some of my favorite things to do! However, there are some people out there who become very anxious in the days leading up to an event like this. Especially, if they have a disability that impacts the way they get around. I’m sure there are many different reasons why someone would become anxious, but most commonly it’s because they’re worried they might not be able to access the actual house or the bathroom or the backyard.

[00:01:35] So for a second, I want you to imagine that you use a wheelchair for mobility. Now, let’s imagine that you just received an invitation to your best friend’s baby shower.  You’re so excited and you already have the perfect gift picked out for her. But then you read the address of where the baby shower is taking place and you realize it’s at her mother in law’s house, which you already know, does not accommodate your wheelchair.

[00:02:01] Your excitement turns to heartbreak. And then your mind starts racing with all of these questions. How am I going to get inside? If I do get inside, will I be able to use the bathroom or will I need to restrict my fluids that day so I don’t have to pee as often? And then you think, well, maybe I can just avoid the house all together and just roll around to the backyard through the fence gate.  But then you think, what if it rains and their backyard is all muddy? I won’t be able to push my tires through that. All of the what-if’s start going through your mind and it causes incredible anxiety and panic and all you want to do is be able to go to your best friend’s baby shower. 

[00:02:40] But now you have to make a tough decision… Figure out how to make this work or stay at home. 

[00:02:45] This scenario probably happens more often than you think because homes in the United States are not designed with the disabled community in mind. It’s a hard realization, but that’s why our organization is so focused on designing homes that accommodate everyone. Backyards included! 

[00:03:04] Over two dozen human impairments were considered when our team of student OTs and student designers created the renders for the exterior and backyard of our universally-designed home. You can see pictures of these at our website at universaldesign.org. 

[00:03:20] First of all, all the entrances of this home are no step, meaning you don’t have to climb stairs to get inside and you don’t have to step over any thresholds, making it much safer and more functional for all people.

[00:03:33] Also there is a full bathroom on the main floor that is large enough to accommodate a wheelchair,  which means it’s accessible to a wide variety of people, and no one would need to restrict their fluid prior to visiting the house. Huge plus, right? 

[00:03:50] These two features alone can have a huge impact on someone’s ability to attend a social gathering or, in our scenario, a baby shower. It also eases their anxiety, allowing for healthier emotions and it increases their opportunities for social participation, which is a pretty big deal. 

[00:04:08] We’ve even considered how the backyard should be designed to allow for more visitability and usability. We made sure to include a large paved patio, so homeowners and partygoers can have enough space to move around without having to step into the grass. The patio is made of a hardwood material or composite decking so that it’s a smooth and durable surface. 

[00:04:31] A no-step entrance was also added so that when you are inside the home, you can access the patio with ease, especially if you use a wheelchair, walker, cane, forearm, crutches, or any other mobility device. The transition from indoors to outdoors is much easier with this universal design feature in place. 

[00:04:51] There is also a large awning above the patio to protect from weather and harsh elements such as the heat from the sun. It provides shade and allows people a place to cool down, which is especially important for people who have spinal cord injuries and can’t regulate their body temperatures. A shady spot out of the sun can help them cool off and not overheat so that they can continue enjoying what’s happening outside without having to exclude themselves and go in. 

[00:05:18] Another feature that is included in our render are raised garden beds that allow people to garden and grow vegetables without having to crouch down and get on their hands and knees.  Sarah talks more about this in episode nine, so be sure to listen to that if you haven’t already.

[00:05:33] We also made sure to have a raised fire-pit so everyone can enjoy a warm bonfire on a cool fall evening or roast marshmallows with their friends and family. 

[00:05:43] I hope this scenario has given you some insight on why it’s important to design not only the interior of homes but exteriors and backyards as well with universal design in mind.

[00:05:56] Making a home functional for everyone not only increases accessibility, but it decreases all of the anxiety and fear and heartbreak that people experience when they’re not able to attend an event solely because of the way a home is designed. 

[00:06:10] Thanks for listening and be sure to tune in to future episodes. Bye!


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