of someone in an ultimate state of physical dysfunction. Clearly, a consumer will be hesitant to request a design program that provides “accessibility” if they are not already in a state of necessity; therein lies the challenge with enacting proactive solutions in a world that is more comfortable retrofitting their spaces “if the need arises”. Replacing the term “accessibility” with “inclusivity”, at once delivers a different mental image and will be highly effective if those in the design/build professions will make the effort to adopt the terminology. Speaking about a design as inclusive conjures the idea that everyone is included in the designing of the space. Husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, visiting friends. . .all are considered, welcomed and comfortable in the environment. Is this not what we all seek in our homes? Let’s add the word “invisible” to our term inclusivity. Now we are telling the consumers that not only are we going to make their homes comfortable for anyone that lives or visits, but we are going to do so in a way that is so subtle that outsiders won’t be able to quickly identify the differences. More spacious interiors and effortless utilization of equipment, supplies, and furnishings will all result in a feeling of ease and luxury, even in a smaller residential space. Convincing builders and developers that incorporating these universal features will expand their marketability with very little additional cost is key to mainstreaming the concept.
Since we are discussing the normalization of this area of design, a relatively new interchangeable term more conducive to public buy-in has come on the scene: Life Span Design. This term, also broad in meaning, eliminates the idea of segregation of age groups or physically challenged individuals by simply denoting that this is good design that will serve them during every stage of their life. When we use this term along with pertinent examples such as these: children can help cook or do homework in the kitchen because of varying countertop heights, and an aging mother can easily visit because there is a large, zero entry shower on the bottom level of your home (a feature useful for the bathing of inside pets as well), we take away the stigma and highlight the practicality of inclusivity as it applies to every season in which we are living. I have experienced that building industry professionals are intrigued by the concept when this terminology is used, and are receptive to learning more. Same product, different package. . .sometimes “re-branding” is all that is needed to successfully sell an idea.
To Whom Do We Say It? Targeting Your Market
Aside from tirelessly promoting the cause to the building industry, to whom do we need to appeal in the public arena? It has long been known that women possess a great deal of power in the marketplace, especially with regard to familial purchasing decisions; however, the female influence is that much more dramatic in the market segment currently being discussed. According to a previous AARP (American Association for Retired Persons) study, the typical caregiver in the United States is a 46-year old, college educated, working woman that spends in excess of twenty hours a week providing care to an aging parent 3. As a result of their exposure to these challenges, these same women are thinking about their own ability to live independently as they get older. This study examined women age 45 and over to determine what sort of conversations were being held with regard to the future independence of loved ones and alternative living arrangements if independence was not feasible. The following table extracted from this study illustrates the need for adaptable housing stock: