Christopher and I recently toured a display house built by the good people at Ausmar Homes. The house is excellent because the approach to designing it is excellent. As with all good design, it is inclusive, not exclusive.
Homes have traditionally been built with only the able-bodied in mind. Architects usually design houses – doorways, hallways, windows, steps, kitchen bench top heights, bathrooms, utility spaces, driveways, landscaping, etc, based on the assumption that the only people who live in houses are fully able-bodied. Anyone who lives with mobility difficulties has no choice but to undertake expensive modifications to the homes they buy or build in order to live there comfortably and safely.
But – just as with ramped kerbs – if the built environment is designed to include those ‘on the margins’, it will include everyone; exclude no-one. A house is no different. Anyone, regardless of ability or disability can easily get through a slightly wider doorway. Not everyone can easily get through a narrow doorway. Everyone can negotiate a ramp. Not everyone can negotiate a step.
And with our ageing population, more and more people are living with one form of disability or impairment or another. Why not simply design every new house so that anyone could move in and live there? Expense? Not really. If all homes were designed from the start with this approach, economies of scale would immediately apply.
Add to a well-designed building, some of the accessible, affordable home-automation technology available these days, and you begin to see a whole new world of possibilities for independent living. There is a mishmash of ‘smart’ home appliances becoming available. And this is good. But it is far from a perfect solution. What’s needed is for someone to give us accessible devices that we can personalise and then operate reliably and securely within a home network, and then invite home-appliance manufacturers to make their products compatible with these personalised devices, so that anyone, regardless of ability or disability, can live more independently in their own homes.
Apple’s new HomeKit in iOS 10, built-in to all iPads and iPhones – the most accessible devices on the planet, bar none – allows for home appliances (not very many in Australia yet, but more becoming available all the time) such as lights, door-locks and sensors to be connected easily and securely via the home wifi network, and controlled from the HomeKit App. Imagine asking Siri to turn off the living room lights, activate scenes, or lock the front door from anywhere in the world.
We spent a few days shooting a little video to help you imagine how cool it would be to live in a home that is built right and equipped right. Christopher has just completed the edit. Here it is…
I never thought such things would be possible. I’m a pessimist, so I’m surprised!