By Dana Corddry
Our home is our sanctuary. After a hard day, we can come home and curl up in a warm blanket, watch something relaxing on tv, or read a book. After a great day, we can return home and open some bubbly, and call over friends to come and join us. But what if that blanket were stowed on too-high a shelf, just out of reach? Or if the champagne flutes were too inaccessible, all the way at the back of a traditional cabinet? These are the unique and oft ignored sort of obstacles that individuals living with physical challenges or disabilities contend with daily.
The safety and comfort of our homes is something that most of us have organically grown accustomed to, beginning in our early childhoods. Imagine though, if your home – instead of being a place of safety and respite, were a commonly inhospitable maze of challenges and safety hazards. What sort of impact might that have on your overall wellness or demeanor if day-in, day-out, you found yourself struggling to complete even the simplest of tasks, like washing the dishes, or flushing the toilet? Or if doing something like going outside to enjoy your own garden, posed a risk to your safety?
This is the sort of dilemma that the team of builders at Allman Builders, Ltd., in Salford, UK, have successfully solved for at least one happy homeowner, named Mona Patel. At twenty-six years old, Mona was diagnosed with an ultra-rare muscular disease called GNE Myopathy (GNEM). GNEM is a late onset disease that progressively deteriorates the body’s muscle tissue. In its advanced stage, patients are typically confined to a wheelchair and have very limited mobility. Eleven years ago, Mona was living in her beautiful house in the U.K., enabled in her daily activities by very helpful caregivers. But she still struggled with a volume of day-to-day things that most of us take for granted, such as turning on the kitchen faucet. (If you’re seated in a wheelchair, a typical faucet handle is well beyond your reach).
Eventually, Mona and her family decided it was time to renovate their house to make it more wheelchair-friendly for her. They met with five different builders, but one stood out among the others. Roy and his team at Allman Builders instantly connected with Mona and her family. “I’m going to make it my mission to get you back out in that garden,” Roy assured Mona, and they knew Allman Builders were the right fit. “They were so respectful about working around us,” Mona says. It’s clear the entire family was very comfortable during the renovation process.
Allman Builders went above and beyond to customize every inch and feature of Mona’s house from top to bottom, turning it from a house into a real home. The first objective was adding a vertical platform lift (or a “through floor lift,” Mona says in her British accent). This addition was something that Mona had hesitated to do for years, due to the cost. But Roy’s team did not stop there. They relocated all of the sink faucet handles in the house closer to counter edges, within convenient reach for Mona. They widened doorways and opened spaces up to make the home more wheelchair friendly, and thoroughly eliminated all trip hazards for safety. Formerly permanent surfaces like desktops became mobile at the push of a button, so their heights could be adjusted. In the kitchen, a number of side-opening doors were installed, to eliminate the need for Mona to maneuver around cabinet or pantry doors in her wheelchair just to access something like a hand towel. Allman Builders also lowered and repositioned multiple appliances, adding a mini fridge and other conveniences discreetly below work surfaces, thus saving Mona time when she wants to grab something quickly between chores, or during work.
“I don’t want any other patient to go through what I went through,” Mona mentions of her early experience with GNEM. “I don’t want anyone else to feel that – um – isolation,” she says, tearing up. If we are the products of our environments, then what happens to our psyches when our own environments make us feel like we don’t belong? I imagine that what Mona formerly experienced maneuvering through her house before it was renovated was something akin to what one experiences being the super tall kid in class, or conversely, being too short to ride any adult rides, even when you’re an adult. Only for her, she felt this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a wheelchair-bound human exists in a space that is inhospitable to wheelchairs, then that critical sense of human belonging may be dangerously absent during too many moments, too much of that person’s life.
Allman Builders didn’t just renovate a house, they turned it into a home. They gave their client the life changing gift of creating a space in which she belongs – a space that is uniquely and intrinsically her own. In fact, Roy and his team at Allman Builders, Ltd. were so moved by their experience renovating the Patel family home, they decided to support the organization that Mona works with as a GNEM patient advocate, the Neuromuscular Disease Foundation (NDF), through making a donation. Now that’s building with heart!
Mona participates in educational forums and patient advocacy speaker series through the Neuromuscular Disease Foundation (NDF). NDF funds critical research toward finding treatments and a cure for GNEM, and enhances the quality of the lives of people living with GNE Myopathy through advocacy, education, and outreach. NDF’s Corporate Partnership Program gives businesses like Allman Builders, the opportunity to expand their consumer base and reach their target market, while giving back. If you are interested in learning more about Mona, or GNEM, visit: https://curegnem.org/ for more information.
To view Mona’s first look at her completed home renovation, click here.
To make a difference like Allman Builders, by becoming an NDF Corporate Partner, click here.