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Three cheers for Nationwide Homes and their new product, Care Cottages!!
Nationwide Homes has come up with a modular unit that is a completely
accessible home and comes fully equipped to accommodate people with spinal cord injuries.
The house is 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom – a total of 642 square feet
– and it comes ready to install on the property of a caregiver.
The idea behind the home is to provide safe access to a caregiver, but
also to give the injured person the privacy and quality of life of having
his or her own home.

My husband has suffered a spinal cord injury and is in a wheelchair, so
I know how difficult it can be to find a house that has the wide halls,
wide doors, and the other features that make a house accessible –
read, livable – to someone with a spinal cord injury who is in a
wheelchair. As a
lawyer who represents clients with spinal cord injuries, I know these problems are not unique to my family.

Years ago, our family began a ministry at our church to reach out to patients
at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the nation’s premier
medical centers for spinal cord rehab, and one of the regional model centers
for spinal cord injury rehabilitation. My husband had gotten his own rehab
at Shepherd many years before.

Many of the families and patients we met had been at Shepherd Center for
months on end. They had suffered catastrophic spinal cord injuries, mostly from
car accidents and truck wrecks and motorcycle accidents, although many of the patients
had suffered falls, often from roofs or scaffolding in construction accidents.
The patients and their families spent weeks or, often, months in rehabilitation
trying to recover from the spinal cord injury.

As we talked to the families and to the patients in
Shepherd Center, we heard a recurring theme: folks were worried about going home because
the place where they lived was not equipped for a paraplegic or a quadriplegic
in a wheelchair. Often the patients with spinal cord injuries had no way
to even get into their own homes in their wheelchairs. Once they got the
wheelchair through the door, the families were still not sure how they
could get the wheelchair into the bathroom.

Families were scrambling to install ramps and retrofit houses with wider
doors that could accommodate the wide berth of a wheelchair. Fixing the
house to allow the injured person to do normal, daily activities of life
– like preparing a meal – was not even on the agenda, because
of the prohibitive cost of retrofitting a home to accommodate someone
in a wheelchair who has spinal cord mobility impairment.

Enter a company called Nationwide Homes, and its new product, Care Cottages.

According to Dan Goodin of Nationwide Homes, the company’s idea was
to create “built for living construction.” Goodin explained
that the company believed that: “if you design from the ground up,
and value engineer the home from the ground up, you can build more affordably
with accessibility — as an alternative to going in and trying to
retrofit an existing design.” In other words, the company planned
to “take the person’s needs into account before we design
and engineer it, and then when we build it, it’s built more affordably
because those things were taken into account from the very beginning.”

Nationwide’s first cottage was built for Angie Plager, a 28-year-old
Iowa woman who became a quadriplegic in a car accident in 2003. In a video
put out by Nationwide Homes, Angie talked eloquently and very movingly
about what it meant to have an accessible home. She had been living in
her parents’ living room, and to her the new home meant privacy
and dignity – a freedom and independence that provided her with
a quality of life she had not had since her injury.

Cheers to Nationwide! The company is absolutely right. It costs far, far
less to build a home that is accessible than it does to make a non-accessible
home more accessible for a quadriplegic or a paraplegic and his or her
wheelchair. I can appreciate their accomplishment personally, and also as a
spinal cord injury lawyer.