Accessibility Is More Than Independence

Barrier Free is Living with Ability

Ronnie Wiskin, President Reliable Independent Living Services

By the year 2030, it’s estimated that “half of all people will be affected by a disability within their lifetime.” Because of this statistic, advertisements like walk-in baths, stair-lifts and mobility scooters are being recognized as common safety and accessibility solutions in and around the home.

Creating this type of awareness addresses the reality of the need to improve our private and public spaces to remain independent and active in society. Additional benefits from increased awareness include more education about health and wellness, finance and personal care options to help plan for the future.

Accessibility is more than independence.

Accessibility is commonly recognized as wheelchair ramps in front of buildings, grab bars in bathrooms and devices that swing doors open for wheel friendly access. It’s much more than this.

  • A cane or a walker makes maneuvering through physical barriers safer for those of us with fragile bones or problems with balance.
  • Indicator signals that notify someone’s at the door or that the telephone is ringing are examples of adapting the environment to overcome sensory barriers.
  • Reducing clutter is another way to make life more manageable around the home.
  • Re-organizing household belongings and creating usable storage solutions are all that’s needed to remove your barriers.

What can be done to make an environment accessible to people of all abilities?

  • The first step towards achieving barrier free living should be to have an assessment by an occupational therapist or other professional with experience in adaption to perform functional activities of daily living.
  • The environmental barriers & physical needs for all occupants should be determined and a report with recommendations be created, this should include all possible future needs as well.
  • Designing the environment to meet all users’ needs is the next step prior to planning the renovation and this should be done by a qualified “universal design” or “barrier free design” specialist.

Before tackling any type of barrier free renovation, it’s important to fully understand the scope of work in relation to access, safety, independence and comfort. Recommendations can be simple, such as installing grab bars, raising a toilet seat or converting a fixed shower head into a hand held shower wand. More elaborate improvements can be made by creating a new two or three story elevator, a barrier free washroom, accessible kitchen or modifying existing structures to accomplish a barrier free living space.

Barrier-free public environments

There is a growing awareness about the need for accessibility within the larger community to help make life more manageable for those of us living with disabilities. For example, there are many more ramps, automatic doors, traffic lights that make sounds so that people with visual impairments can cross the streets with greater independence and safety. Many movie theatres are more accessible and we can negotiate for accessible seating when we go to the concert hall, ballet or opera.

New strategies are beginning to surface, creating an inclusive and accessible path for people of all abilities. Contributing towards developing long term success for our future begins by creating sustainability for ourselves now. By enhancing the possibilities for achieving independent living, we can greatly reduce the long term costs and effects associated with assisting a large number of people not able to navigate through barriers created from our past. Making our own environments welcoming and accessible will certainly enrich the lives of everyone, enhancing the abilities of all.

Ronny Wiskin, President Reliable Independent Living ServicesRonny Wiskin is the Founder & President of ReliAble Independent Living Services, a company established in 2003, which provides complete access solutions for residential and commercial environments. ReliAble’s core values are listening to the customer and enhancing quality of life with integrity and honesty. The company’s vision is ‘to continually strengthen the social fabric by keeping families together’. Visit them online: