Home’s Universal Designs Promote Walk And Roll

Home’s Universal Designs Promote Walk And Roll

After a severe spinal-cord injury from an ATV accident made Domenic Cuda dependent on a wheelchair, it became apparent he and his family would have to find a new home.

Their two-storey house in Hamilton’s Binbrook community couldn’t be adapted to accommodate Cuda’s paraplegia. He had to rely on a mechanical lift in the garage to get in and out of the house and the main-floor dining room became his bedroom. A first-floor mudroom was outfitted with a shower.

Until 2002, five years before his accident, Cuda had worked for Losani Homes, overseeing new home construction from the drywall stage to completion. He reached out to his former boss and friend, Fred Losani, CEO of Losani Homes, about building a new barrier-free home for him and his family. Working closely with Cuda, Losani Homes built a 2,575-square-foot bungalow with three bedrooms and four bathrooms for him, his wife Paola and their young sons, Giovanni and Massimo, on a walkout lot close to Lake Ontario in Stoney Creek. They moved in seven years ago.

“My main concern was that it not scream ‘wheelchair accessible’ and Losani did a fantastic job,” says Cuda, 41.

Since 1984, Losani has renovated or built 20 accessible homes. Its new Central Park community in Hamilton will offer elevators or elevator rough-ins as an option in townhomes and single homes, they will build in barrier-free features if requested, and make the community’s pathways wheelchair-accessible.

Statistics Canada figures show 3.8 million Canadians are limited in their daily activities due to a disability. It’s a factor in the development of “universal design,” the principle behind features that provide the same means of use for everyone, are flexible, simple and intuitive to use, tolerate error, require little physical effort and have sufficient space for approach and use. Examples include lever handles, large-print labels, bright task lighting, slip-resistant surfaces, cabinets with pull-out shelves and curb cuts to accommodate wheelchairs.

For Cuda’s home, Losani ensured all barrier-free modifications blended seamlessly with the overall design. There is no ramp at the front of the house — Cuda accesses the home through the garage; the garage door has been raised by a foot so he can park his wheelchair van inside. A three-stage elevator takes him to the home’s main level or to the basement. If the power goes out, he can take a pathway along the side of the house to the backyard where he can enter through the dining room’s sliding doors.

The interior finishes are upscale: hand-scraped teak floors, abundant windows, high ceilings and granite kitchen countertops. The barrier-free features are subtle and incorporate universal design components, including wider hallways and doors, slightly lower cabinets, lever door handles and lower light switches. The kitchen and bathroom have counters to accommodate Cuda’s wheelchair and the master bathroom has a roll-in shower.

Thanks to a winding path with an ideal slope, Cuda can enjoy his backyard and tend to his raised vegetable garden. He can enter his basement, where he makes wine in his burgundy-painted “man cave,” watches TV with his boys, ages 9 and 11, and works out in his well-outfitted home gym. When the boys get home from school, they gather in the kitchen, where he helps them with their homework.

Cuda deftly negotiates his modern kitchen with its large drawers, roll-in pantry and pot-filler faucet above the cooktop. In the dining room, he has a built-in bar refrigerator. He also has a small home-office nook for his volunteer work as chair of the fundraising committees for his sons’ hockey and soccer teams, or to help with a friend’s new home design.

Losani says many of the features make sense for everyone, especially those who want to age in their homes. An elevator shaft can be roughed-in in 30 square feet of space for $7,000. Complete, an elevator costs about $54,000.

“My wife and kids use the elevator all the time to bring groceries to the kitchen from the garage or to take sports equipment to the basement,” says Cuda. “And grandparents can use it to go to the basement.”

Cuda’s experience living in the home has given him insights into other features that would also work, such as extending the rear covered porch and adding double French doors to the master bedroom in case of emergency.

Overall, he’s been thrilled with his home. “It’s given me total accessibility, total freedom,” Cuda says. “I can come and go independently, even if the power is out. My independence, privacy and mobility have dramatically increased.”

Hamilton development to offer accessibility features

Losani Homes’ new master-planned community in East Hamilton will cater to all types of buyers, including those with disabilities and mobility issues.

The first phase of the Park Avenue neighbourhood will offer freehold townhomes and detached homes next to Eramosa Karst Conservation Area. Buyers can opt to have an elevator installed or an elevator shaft roughed in. The rough-in costs $7,000; a complete elevator installation is $54,000.

Company CEO Fred Losani says his company will work with clients to customize homes, whether it’s making doorways and hallways wider, choosing lots with grades to accommodate wheelchairs, or simpler features, such as levered door handles and task lighting.

“It’s just smart design to incorporate these things (universal design features) into everyday living,” says Losani, who has designed his own home with the future in mind. “I love where I live and I have space for grandchildren. This house is mine forever and I don’t want to have to move.”

Losani is an avid outdoorsman who hiked the entire Bruce Trail in 28 days. The seven kilometres of trails in his Central Park development will connect to the Bruce and will be modified to accommodate wheelchairs, bicycles and baby strollers so all residents can enjoy them.

Central Park’s first phase will offer freehold townhomes and detached homes on 33- to 50-foot lots in both modern and Tuscan home designs. Future phases will include midrise condominiums and three-storey urban townhomes.

Many shops are within walking distance to Central Park and recreation facilities, including golf courses, arenas and community centres, are accessible by foot or bicycle. Minutes away are the Bruce Trail, Billy Green Falls, Albion Falls, Felker’s Falls and Billy Monkley Cascade. For more information, go to MyCentralPark.ca.