Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Safe Haven

A 12 year old boy, Joseph Martin, will be able to take his wheelchair into his bedroom for the first time in his life and become more self sufficient, thanks to a project by Rebuilding Together. Joseph, who lives with his single mother Mary and sisters Holly and Rebekah, has to be carried up the stairs to his bedroom every night.

Joseph, who is on an able-bodied swim team, and likes to ski, carve and fly-fish, has had 39 surgeries. He was diagnosed with cloacal exstrophy, spina bifida and chiari malformation.

After his teacher Suzanne Nesbit made a documentary of the lack of access in Joseph's home to send to Oprah, local school officials and community members who viewed it decided not to wait. They found help to build a room with access for Joseph from Rebuilding Together. The project, slated to cost $100,000, is called A Safe Haven.

The aim of the addition is to make Joseph's living quarters accessible in every way.

A custom-made shower is part of the plans. A washing machine, dryer, stovetop and microwave will be at a level he can reach, and the rooms will be designed so he will always have enough space to turn his wheelchair around.

"This will be a place for him to live independently," said Warren, who will be recruiting volunteers once the project is closer to completion. "Joseph sells this project himself. He and his family have overcome so much, and everybody's embracing it as an opportunity to do something beyond themselves."

All this is huge for Joseph, who seems to have architect Lynn Walker's blueprints memorized. With great detail, he can reel off with preciseness what will be in each of the 1800 square feet of the addition.

His eyes beam as he rehearses the architectural plans.

"I will be able to bring my wheelchair into my room," said Joseph, who presently must be carried up the stairs each day. "And I'll finally be able to close my own door." via


Anonymous said...


Wheelie Catholic said...

Isn't this great? It really shows what communities can do to help fix our accessible community housing shortage.

Anonymous said...


Can I be stunned for a moment? *1800 square feet*? *Addition?* In a home for *four* people??

I saw the price first and I thought, whoa, what's going on! You could build a *house* for that!

And sure enough, nice house. If mine were as big as the *addition*, it could easily house the six of us and fix the few remaining accessibility issues.

I am really happy that Michael is getting good housing. But I'm concerned that people may read and think "Gosh to make a home accessible you have to spend all this money and use all this extra space . . ."

Just not comfortable there.

--> Recognizing in all this that there could well be circumstances that explain why in this situation an elaborate addition is the only realistic choice. I'm more reacting to the general idea than making a comment on this particular family. I'm thrilled for the family and glad they were able to get this done.


Wheelie Catholic said...

Your points are well taken :) I thought the same thing, because I've seen access achieved for much less. I've also seen homes that are nightmares to convert and create cost after cost.

There needs to be more of a push for visitability and universal design too.

Anonymous said...

Ah, good, it wasn't just me.

I cringe every time I see a new home being built with features that guarantee it will be crazy expensive and difficult to add access (or visitability) after the fact.