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Maria On Finding Ways To Make Your Home Work For You


Maria is an outside the square thinker, and after years of experimenting and trying out different ways to do things, she has a ton of accessible tips and tricks to share. Recently she has been adding accessible technology into the mix, which has given her more control over her home enviornment than she thought possible.

Key Features:

Back garden
2 bedrooms

Accessibility and Inclusion Features:

Flat entrances
Accessible bathroom
Wheelchair accessible pathways
Custom accessible design
Wireless home automation


Wheelchair as Extension of Self

When Maria's niece was three years old, she pointed out that her Auntie Maria kept her muscles in a box. She was referring to the control box on Maria's electric wheelchair. Everyone had a little chuckle at this adorable and innocent observation, but Maria embraced her niece's unknowingly wise words. Maria began to see her wheelchair not as something external that she was bound to, but rather as a powerful extension of herself that enables and frees her to do things and go places.

The accessibility of Maria's house is closely linked with her wheelchair. She uses the knobs on the front footplate to push things out of her way, rearrange furniture, get things, open and close doors and water her garden. When Maria needed a wheelchair update, she was told she shouldn't have footplate knobs because people might bump into them. She explained that her chair is not for other people's comfort. It is to enable her. Taking away the knobs means taking away ability. The knobs stayed.

Creative Custom Solutions

It was really important to Maria to be able to access her iPhone and TV while in bed, but because of her limited upper body mobility, this required some creative thinking. After a bit of trial and error, Maria and a support worker eventually created a reliable system. Before her support worker leaves for the night, they pin the bed control to Maria's shirt and she rests her hand there at night. This way she can operate her bed and move it into a seated position. From there, she can wiggle her hand over to a table that sits over her belly to access her iPhone and TV control. She also has a button to unlock the front door for her support staff in the morning.

A House That Listens

Maria has always been able to find her own creative custom accessibility solutions, but recently she has been experimenting with home automation technology, which has taken the accessibility of her home to a whole new level. She speaks and her home responds. Upon her command, the air conditioner runs, fans turn on, blinds shut and lights flicker on. This is done with VeraMate in conjunction with Siri on her iPhone. Home automation has already made a huge impact on Maria, and it's only going to evolve from here.

Do What You Love

Maria loves gardening and cooking. In the past, it was her hands in the soil or her fingers sprinkling on the spices. Today, she can't physically do those things, and so she employs support workers not to take care of her, but to be her arms and legs and to enable her to do what she loves. She says it doesn't matter if they don't know how to cook. As long as they can listen and take direction, there will be a gourmet feast at the end. She's still the gardener and she's still one talented and passionate cook. Keeping with her Italian roots, she feeds everyone who comes through her house with food from her garden.

Support staff, good design, home automation technology and her own creative thinking are all key ingredients that make Maria's home her own accessible haven.

The below video was produced for Peer Connect. In it, Maria explains what makes a good support worker for her.

What Makes A Good Support Worker? from JFA Purple Orange on Vimeo.