Dale Coffey's story helps us understand who to include in "design that's usable by all people."

And not just in Waynesboro, Virginia, but anywhere.

My Mom and Dad built their house back in the early 1950’s. They continued to live there until just recently. They moved in before a bathroom was completed and lived in one room until they got the money to slowly add to and complete the house. By the time they reached their 30’s and 40’s, it was serving them well as a home for their growing family.

As my parents reached their mid and late 80’s the need for more accessibility became painfully evident. Steps and stairs to enter the front, the back of the house, and basement were major issues. The outside entrance to the basement was a concern during cold weather for Dad’s shop as well as gathering canned and frozen foods for meals.

Mom had experienced 3 strokes causing memory and safety issues in the kitchen, and Dad was experiencing the final stages of Glaucoma, which caused concern with his driving, as well as his inability to work in his shop creating wood crafts for shows that he and mom enjoyed so much. While their mobility was still good as long as they were in familiar surroundings, the steps inside and out created concerns with falling.

The small bathroom was not large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, nor were the surrounding rooms suitable for expansion. Bathing and toileting were complicated by the tub being so close to the commode a shower chair would barely fit.

The kitchen cabinets went to the ceilings, which were not usable above shoulder height, and the small kitchen was not large enough to accommodate a dishwasher. Thankfully the washer and dryer were on the main floor which was a great help.

As their mobility slowly decreased, we made sure everything they needed was on the main level. The basement and second story was only used as storage because they increasingly had problems navigating stairs.

The small abode had served them well for over 65 years. However, it became evident that for their own safety other arrangements would have to be made. Had Universal Design and its concepts been available when construction began, there are many things that could have been done differently that would have made life much more accommodating in their later years. A wider door here and there, larger bathing and toileting area are only the beginning of changes that would have allowed them to remain in their home longer.

Location: Waynesboro, Virginia, United States