Accessibility to Possibility

Sarah McGann


Neil is a sporty, outdoorsy sort of bloke. He spends very little time at home, preferring to golf, surf, go to the footy and hang out with his mates: You can tell just by looking inside his house—a huge TV in the darkened lounge, and golf equipment, surfboards and motorbike gear fill up the room. That was before last October. Now, in June, Neil is a paraplegic, his house is inaccessible and his boys-toys are in the way.


For Neil, his home, previously an inwardly focused place to sleep and store, will become the centre of his world (when he can eventually get into it). Initially, accessibility is the key problem to be solved. To this end the architectural advisor from the rehabilitation unit proposed formulaic adjustments to the bathroom to allow for wheelchair access. However, accessibility is only one facet of the problem. This environment, relatively unimportant before, now needs to enable and inspire the occupant both physically and emotionally. As physical abilities dramatically change the spatial practices of everyday life also change. The home environment is ever more important to support and help heal emotional scarring after a life-changing event.


In the context of shorter hospital and rehabilitation stays, the home provides a vital extension to the healthcare system. Therefore it is important that architectural advice given to enable this move considers the holistic qualities of design thinking rather than be restricted to short-term solutions.


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