Our overriding goal in A House For All Children has been to provide guidelines for creating safe and supportive home environments for children with physical disabilities. We feel strongly that a truly supportive environment is one that allows children with disabilities to function at the peak of their abilities--whatever the type and degree of their physical challenges. It also provides the range of physical, social, and emotional supports that can help parents and children deal with the demands of living with a disability.
We began this book with three premises. Our first premise was that the physical environment of the home had a strong impact on the well-being of children with physical disabilities, their parents, and their siblings. Second, the physical, social, and emotional needs of the child and the family will change as the child grows and the home environment must also change to accommodate these evolving needs. Finally, the families of younger children with disabilities can benefit immensely from the advice, experiences, and insights of families with older children with disabilities.
The research we conducted--we interviewed over 65 parents and 12 children--convinced us that each premise was correct. A properly designed home did make things easier for all family members. Needs did change over time as did the demands placed on the home. And parents offered a wealth of insights about what worked and what did not, as well as much valuable advice on parenting a child with a disability. Our extensive conversations with the families in this study revealed several key pieces of information to keep in mind as you read on.
First, the demands of raising a child with a disability can be great--but so can the rewards for you and your other children.
Second, realize that you are not alone. Support and information are available from all kinds of sources--other families, service providers, state and county offices on disability, and advocacy organizations. See the Resource section on page 99 of the book for how to contact them.
Third, both the law and spirit of the times are on your side. You and your child have more rights now than ever before. The Americans with Disabilities Act and other pieces of legislation are slowly making the world more accessible. Opportunities for mainstream/inclusive education are expanding and so are athletic and recreational options for children with disabilities.
Fourth, more assistive technologies and equipment for people with disabilities arrive in the marketplace each day. These devices are designed specifically to help people with disabilities function more effectively and independently. They also make it significantly easier to care for children with disabilities.
Fifth, architects, builders, and planners have greater sensitivity to and familiarity with accessible design than in the past. This will make it easier for you to find competent professionals to make the modifications that may be necessary for your home.
Sixth, specialized equipment and home modifications can span a wide range of costs. We describe strategies for making your home safe and accessible in a variety of ways; each approach has a different price tag. Fortunately, financial assistance for home modifications is gradually becoming available.
Creating a supportive home is an evolving process. Better designs and improved products are constantly being developed. We are always open to new information. If you have made a home modification or purchased a piece of assistive equipment that you think works particularly well, we would like to hear about it. Please drop us a note so we can pass the information on to other families.
A House for All Children is the culmination of three-years work. We have relied heavily on the experiences of families like yours who shared their time willingly and generously to make this book happen. We all hope that you will find it helpful.
Lynn Hutchings, M. Arch.
Ezra Ehrenkrantz, F.A.I.A.
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CENTER FOR ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING SCIENCE RESEARCH
NEW JERSEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
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NEWARK, NEW JERSEY 07102-1982