Making A Handicap Accessible Home For Disabled Veterans

March 26, 2015

Not Forgotten Outreach of Taos New Mexico is repurposing a 6 bedroom B & B for disabled veterans.

Kym Sanchez is an Iraq War veteran and the founder of Not Forgotten Outreach near Taos, New Mexico. Recently, the group purchased a former bed & breakfast and is turning it into a working farm and place where disabled veterans can come to heal. Not Forgotten’s motto is:

Not Forgotten Outreach is dedicated to motivating military Veterans and Gold Star families of fallen Warriors to participate in recreational and/or therapeutic activities in order to facilitate the healing process.

The two acre property has a 5150 square foot, 6 bedroom, 5 1/2 bath building that offers a stunning view of the mountains north of Taos. “It provides tranquility,” Sanchez says. “So many of our vets live in places where they don’t have that.”

But a lot of work has to be done to make the building suitable for its intended purpose — a handicap accessible home. Doorways need to be widened and countertops lowered to meet the needs of wheelchair bound guests. None of the bathrooms is presently handicap accessible. One of the bathrooms needs to be reconfigured for people who are totally disabled.

Not Forgotten Outreach has teamed up with  Mark Goldman, who leads the Green Technology Program at the University of New Mexico at Taos. With his guidance and that of his students, the veterans have begun renovating the structure in a process that involves both learning and healing.

“We can stay in the classroom and learn out of books,” says Goldman “[but] it always seems to make more sense to use the real thing. Why should we stay in the classroom except that it’s safer and easier for me?” Just lowering the door knobs and widening the doors is not enough, he says. The goal is to allow guests using wheelchairs to feel at home in the space.

After making the building accessible, the next step is what Goldman calls “the boring stuff” – fixing air leaks around doors and windows. “If you have a building that has a little leak around this door here and that door there, it’s like having a two-to-three-foot hole in the wall. It’s not expensive to fix, just a lot of work.” Improving the building’s energy efficiency will not require a lot of money, Goldman says, just a lot of time.

Existing windows will be replaced with more energy efficient models. Mechanical systems will need repair, too, and the group is shopping for a solar thermal heating system. But the lesson for people interested in improving the sustainability of their homes, according to Goldman, is to not put the cart before the horse. “Rather than using renewables as a Band Aid to fix bad design, fix the building the first,” Goldman explains.

Sounds like good advice.

Source: Taos News  :  Photo credit: Katharine Egli/Taos News

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Stephen Hanley

lives in Rhode Island and writes about topics at the convergence of technology and ecology. You can follow him on Google + and Twitter.
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