Students at CU Denver Design Accessible Homes for Veterans and Service Dogs

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Custom homes make life more accessible for people with disabilities. Single-story homes with wide hallways are available for individuals in wheelchairs, and aging-in-place design compensates for the loss of mobility that can accompany old age.

Now, architecture students at CU Denver are looking to take accessible custom home design one step further by designing homes for veterans and their service dogs.

In a collaboration with Freedom Service Dogs, students are competing to create a new home that will better accommodate people like former Marine Paul Durbin, who served as the inspiration for the project along with his service dog, Harmony.

Durbin was injured during a training operation and now experiences constant pain. Since being injured, Durbin has experienced several falls down stairs that further complicated injuries in his back and hip.

The new student-designed homes boast green energy solutions, in addition to features that go above and beyond the standards required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The accessibility features range from counter height, to sink placement, to more accessible appliances. David Stanathan, one of the students competing for the top design, incorporated an elevator and a rotating wall with an attached bed into his home plan.

“So if Paul was stuck in bed and not able to get out for dinner one evening, the whole wall could rotate and the family could still spend dinner together,” he told a local ABC affiliate.

After the semester ends, the student with the winning design is expected to seek funding to see if their vision can become a reality for someone like Durbin.

A similar project is in later stages at the Universal Design Living Laboratory in Central Ohio. Visitors can pay $10 to take self-guided audio tours of the Laboratory’s accessible ranch home. The money benefits spinal cord injury research at a local medical center.

The residence was designed with accessibility and sustainability in mind and features step-free entrances and thresholds, wide hallways and doors, and kitchen and bathroom fixtures that leave room for wheelchairs.

The tour is designed to show the public as well as professional builders and architects what a truly accessible home can look like.

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