Let us in Think accessible housing is just an issue for the “disabled”? Think again. Making Las Vegas livable in the future means making homes more visitable — today
by pattie thomas
After a year in rehab recovering from surgery that left her without the use of her legs, Marteen Moore wanted to be with her children and go back to work as an interior designer. There was one catch: As a new wheelchair user, she could no longer navigate her own home. Unable to shower, she needed help to be lifted in and out of the tub. Unable to drive, she had to be chauffeured. That was until she learned about a program called Rebuilding All Goals Efficiently. With the help of this Southern Nevada-based program, Moore modified her home and her vehicle — and got her life back. “It is wonderful. I have a sense of independence. I can live again,” says Moore, a Summerlin resident. “I can go places. I can work. Of course, I have to take my portable ramp with me to be able to go into clients’ and friends’ homes.” Moore considers herself lucky. Her front entrance and hallways didn’t need modification, and she had a bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor. “If I had picked any of the other three floor plans in my community,” she says, “I would have had to move.” Many newly disabled persons are not so lucky, explains Reggie Bennett, executive director of Rebuilding All Goals Efficiently. “We look at a number of factors in helping families adapt a home,” says Bennett. Those factors include everything from technical nuts and bolts to the family’s emotional state. “But not all homes can be adapted,” he adds. “It is not always cost-effective. Retrofitting is not 26 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J a n u a r y 2 0 1 1
Marteen Moore modified her home to make it wheelchair-friendly. “I can live again,” she says.
always possible. It is not always feasible to move into another home, even if we could find one.” And there aren’t a lot of adaptable and accessible homes in Southern Nevada to begin with. No one tracks the data specifically, but Bennett says existing inventory of accessible and adaptable dwellings is scarce in the Las Vegas Valley. Yet, almost everyone agrees that as advances in medical science continue to save and lengthen the lives of people who are injured, become ill or grow older, demand for such housing will only rise. In other words, if you think a disability won’t touch your life in some way — and the way you live in your home — think again. “Babies survive birth defects and go on to live
longer lives. We are fighting two wars with a number of our troops coping with post-combat disabilities. People survive accidents and illnesses more frequently. People are living longer,” says Eleanor Smith, executive director of Concrete Change, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that promotes inclusive housing. “Advances in medical care and technologies have led to more people being able to live well with disabilities, provided they have accommodations.” In Nevada, 6.5 percent of the population has a physical disability and is living in the community, according to 2008 figures from the Annual Disability Statistics Continuum; the national figure is 7.2 percent. However, those figures do not include people with chronic
PHOTOGRAPHY By Christopher Smith