When my mom moved in with her Parkinsonism, blindness and short-term memory loss we had to Jury-rig in a hurry. A handyman, she got involved at every stage.

We followed her lead modifying the surroundings to enable her to meaningfully function. She lent her hand sanding the wooden handrails, advising on choices of building materials and hardware.

Now why use the term “Jury Rig”?

Because we didn’t go to the Safety Supply store and order the full kit, we used what we had at hand and the knowledge we had from our shared life experience.

The picture I used for this blog is of my mother bathing me in the dishpan (a Jury-rig many of us experienced).

What was cobbled together on the fly is still in use almost 2 decades later.

We did our retrofit on the-cheap out of necessity and under time-pressure to get her safe and quickly. She had been prone to falling for years and supports we built prevented most of those. Soon she was able to enjoy puttering around following her own agenda and enjoying shared family life.

That experience of building accessible kitchen and bathing facilities sparked my interest in the principals of Universal Design and how they can be followed on any project. Principals don’t have to be expensive.

Here is a good description of Universal Design:

“The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design”

This year a neighbor of mine completed her dream Granny-flat using Universal Design principals. The flat is adjacent to the main floor of her house’s kitchen and living areas giving her mom the benefits of access while preserving privacy for all. The flat was built is completely barrier-free. The bathroom could grace any home with its wood, glass and tile materials. The balcony overlooking the garden is perfect for a retired vegetable farmer who can stay in touch with what’s growing.

When I visit her I am inspired to improve what we have already done in our own home.