I have had the distinct privilege to have had two telephone conversations with Walton D. (Wally) Dutcher, Jr. who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the longest living quadriplegic, having been paralyzed in a diving accident in May of 1956 at the age of 19 while serving in the Navy. Wally’s list of accomplishments include college degrees, managing mutual funds, serving in numerous organizations advocating for people with disabilities, and leading a 5 person  cabinet manufacturer’s growth into a 165 employee, $6 million company in two and one-half years. To say Wally’s story is inspiring would be a major understatement.

Wally called me after finding out about my interest in Universal Design. He has studied architecture and has designed numerous homes that use Universal Design principles. Wally believes strongly (as I do) that homes using the principles of Universal Design benefit everyone. I was recently explaining the work I do with Universal Design in homes to a new father. After listening for a few minutes, he remarked that all of these features would be very helpful to him and his wife considering all the miles they are logging with a baby stroller! In fact, for this very reason, Wally likes the term Life Span Design because the open design of the homes he designs benefit their owners and guests throughout the course of their lives. I know it has only been a couple of months since I was talking about Better Living Design as a new term for Universal Design. The bottom line is that whatever we call it, its high we start designing, building, and living in houses that will serve the needs of our entire population, not the proverbial “average” healthy person. After all, many of us wear glasses or contacts to correct our vision. While wearing the glasses or contacts we can see just fine. If we didn’t have the benefit of these common items, would we be considered disabled?  The same holds true for a person with mobility issues, whether permanently or temporarily, say from a broken leg.  If their home is designed and built to allow them to move freely from room to room and utilize it’s features, they are no more disabled than anyone else in the home.

Talking with Wally was inspiring to me and gives me a renewed zest to build lifetime homes using lifespan design. If you or a loved one would benefit from a home like this, whether new construction or remodeling your existing home, please call 540-556-0650 for more information. I would be happy to tell you more about how your home can be a home for a lifetime.


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