All three of the ground-floor suites are (or will be when the last one is completed sometime in 2017) FULLY HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE to the specifications of PEI Tourism and Access Advisor. This standard is focused on wheelchair access, but should also apply to persons using walkers or canes. Here I list the features that stand out:
- There are no steps or thresholds to trip on. No transition has a lip of more than 1/2″. The outside access is by wooden ramps going from the level of the packed-gravel parking lot to the exact level of the entrance door with less than a 1:12 slope as well as 34-36″ high railings and 38″ width walkways. The level platform outside the doors satisfies the requirement for room to maneuver on entry since all doors swing inward. The outside platforms and ramps have a 2″ ‘curb’ on outside edges to keep canes from going off (the ramps are all no more than 18″ above ground level).
- Kitchen counters are 34″ high with clear open space under the sink at least 19″ deep and 22″ high. All cabinets have no doors, with room to put all dishes, pans and food below the counters if needed. The microwave oven is on a shelf under the counter at a height of 24″ from the floor. The fridge door swings away from the counter, leaving a surface on which to set items as they are removed. While the electric range is a standard 36″ high unit with rear knobs, there is an extension stick which allows knobs to be manipulated from the front.
- The bathroom vanity is 30″ high with clear space underneath except for the drain trap (which goes straight back and is insulated). There is strong grab bar on one side of the sink that is also one of two grab bars for the toilet, which has a ‘comfort height’ extended seat. Two of the three handicappped-accessible units use one-piece tub/showers with grab bars at the back and on the side wall by the faucet. The shower head is on a hose coming from the shower spout. All three suites can have ‘transfer benches’ which allows a person to sit in the shower and, in the case of the two with tubs, sit on the bench from the outside and swing their feet into the shower, while remaining sitting. The third suite has a 5′ flush-with-the-floor shower stall with an extensive back wall grab bar and a second grab bar just outside by the faucet control. All three bathrooms have a clear 5′ turning circle.
- Bedrooms have queen sized beds with a (low) 20″ height and with lights at the head of the bed. There are low hanging rods for clothing.
- All electrical switches are no more than 34″ high and all interior and exterior doors are 36″ wide, giving at least a clear 34″ passage.
History of access plans
On vacation train rides to and from Vancouver, I encountered at least three sets of people with first-hand experiences surrounding accessibility issues. They included one woman who is wheel-chair bound and a couple who equipped their house for their daughter with cerebral palsy. I explained that we wanted to make the apartments as accessible as we could without huge expense, and I was encouraged to hear that the basic requirements are not that difficult…especially if included at the planning stage.
I was already acquainted with the specifications for ramps…1:12 max slope, width, handrail specs, etc. Also as nearly-flush floors as possible, and wide doorways. Going from a 30″ door to a 36″ door only costs a few $10s at planning stage, whereas when a house is finished it can be a major effort to expand doorways. Perhaps one of the unexpected needs is to have a 5′ circle clear for turning–especially in the bathroom. That was easily fixed with a few minor shifts in the plans!
Perhaps the greatest relief was to realise the difference between totally self-sufficient accessibility and accessibility with a caregiver. The former might entail motorized counter elevators and special kitchen cabinets/shelves, while the latter can be much less expensive.
With two bedrooms, we do not expect to attract fully handicapped tourists travelling alone and doing complicated cooking, so the goal was to have all the accessibility for normal daily functions. With 2-4 people, someone else may be chosen to do most of the cooking.
Perhaps the most encouraging word was that a conventional bathtub can be OK with an appropriate bath chair for access (given there is enough room around the tub, of course). A hand spray head seems to be the main requirement, as well hand grips and an appropriate water-resistant floor.
Accessible Trail and Bridges
Immediately behind the suites is a clean, (cold!) spring-fed stream that runs all year, and a small bit of woodland. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of accesibility is the path down to this brook with bridges to the far side. It took some figuring to route paths to keep the slope low enough with the requisite width. The bridges are flush with the paths. They make a trail loop which keeps to handicapped slope requirements, although it would probably be best test it out with help before attempting it alone in a wheelchair. The bridges across the stream at either end of the property are fully handicap-protected, and one can sit on benches along the way and listen to the babbling of the stream that gives us the name ‘Brookside’.
For those more mobile, especially children (with supervision), there is a branch path right beside the stream. The water, while flowing swiftly in places and quite cold, is suitable for wading on hot days, with an average depth of about 6″ and a couple of pools that may be 18″ deep. Technically there are trout, but they have never gotten more than 3-4 inches long.