A Home Full of Barriers

Accessibility issues for people in wheelchairs are prevalent no matter where we look, but even more so in our homes.Renovations to make a home truly accessible cost a small fortune and not everyone can afford it.

Jennifer Glanz shares a constant hurdle she encounters in her very own home, recalling her sliding back door sill that, despite having a height of only a few centimeters, feels like a steep mountain for someone like her. The sliding back door leads to the back deck of her home in Barrhaven.

Glanz suffers from multiple sclerosis, a condition that confines her to a wheelchair. Her disability has led her familyto renovate their home more than once, with more renovations on the way to turn their house completely accessible for the mother of one.

Glanz and her family used to live in a two-storey home, but a few years ago, when her condition gradually deteriorated to the point where she couldno longer use the stairs, Glanz and her husband decided to move into a bungalow with their then 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Emilia.

The pair’s next project is to install a small ramp over the sill to allow Jennifer to make her way to their back deck, with an additional ramp that leads down to the grass.Jennifer saysthat her daughter willlikely be spending plenty of time on the grass, and she wants to be with her daughter when she does.

There are plenty of people who are affected by the vastnumber of barriers that can be found in their homes. Many elderly people wish to age in their own homes, individualsexperienceillnesses that cause their physical capabilities to deteriorate, and people experience tragic accidents that ultimately lead to amore restricted new life; often, in such cases people will find that their homes are not as accessible as they should be. This is especially disheartening since, according to Statistics Canada,22 percent of Canadians live with some sort of disability.

According to Najma Rashid, a partner in Howard Yegendorf & Associates, those who are involved in a non-catastrophic car accident will only receive $65,000 in benefits under Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule despite being permanently disabled. This is in contrast to the delegated $1 million benefit for catastrophic injuries.

The lawyer also shared that the benefit received by the victim will only last five years.Not surprisingly, this is not enough to account for the hurdles the victim will encounter due to the lack of accessibility in their own homes.

Rashid expresses her concerns, stating that non-catastrophic injuries do not define the severity of an injury. She adds that plenty of victims who suffer from serious injuries face the possibility of getting stuck with $65,000 and having no idea whether they should use it to make their home more accessible or to support an ongoing medical treatment.

Home improvements for people who are having trouble accessing their facilities on their ownare incredibly important. In a sentimental statement shared by Eli and Jennifer Glanz, they talk aboutdeciding to renovate their bathroom to allow Jennifer to take showers by herself.

The renovations allow her to enter the bathroom and use the spare wheelchair left inside the shower. The sink and vanity were replaced with what BuildAble calls a “floating sink,” which allows Jennifer to use it somewhat like a desk. They also added in handrails to support and stabilize Jennifer when using the toilet.

Jennifer recalls how inaccessible their bathroom was before the renovation. She remembers needing the her husband’s help to lift her into the standard tub they had because she was unable to do it herself.

Now, she can be more independent and take showers as she wants without needing anyone’s assistance. “He doesn’t know how many times I shower,” she adds jokingly.

The cost of the bathroom renovation alone was $15,000, with most of it paid for by grants from the March of Dimes charity.

BuildAble shares that turning homes barrier-free and fully accessible is incredibly expensive, with prices ranging anywhere from $12,000 to upwards of $30,000 per room. Sadly, this means that not every person with a disability will be able to make their homes completely barrier-free and accessible. What are they to do when even their homes are inaccessible?