Obviously, we didn’t really know anything or have any expectations. It was wonderful. It was effortless.

When Navy Veteran and PVA member Tim was diagnosed with ALS, he and his wife Christine knew their life was about to change. Thankfully, they also knew that PVA could help.

One of the biggest decisions the couple had to grapple with was where they were going to live – a decision that would affect every other aspect of their life and Tim’s care. Many ALS patients choose to move to a new home designed specifically for wheelchair users after they are diagnosed so that the entire space is wheelchair-accessible, but Tim and Christine chose to stay in the home they had shared for many years.

“He’s losing mobility and can’t get upstairs,” Christine said. “We have a two-story home, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for him to get around. However, we were lucky enough that we had a way to build on that would look okay.”

Tim and Christine began working with a local architect to design an addition onto their home that would contain a bedroom and restroom on the first floor. Once they had plans drawn up for the addition, their contact at PVA suggested submitting the plans to PVA’s architectural consultants for feedback, free of charge.

The couple had worked with an architect with previous accessible design experience, but PVA’s architects provided additional comments and suggestions for the space’s design. They also recommended a reconfiguration of the bathroom plans to make it easier to navigate in a wheelchair.

While Christine and Tim had discussed many aspects of the addition’s accessible layout with their architect, Christine says PVA’s notes helped consolidate and confirm many of the decisions they had made.

“Obviously, we didn’t really know anything or have any expectations. It was wonderful. It was effortless,” Christine said.

Christine passed PVA’s suggestions on to their builders, who incorporated the suggestions into their plans. Those plans were then submitted to and approved by the township. Now, Tim and Christine are ready to start building their addition to keep Tim safe and comfortable in his home.

Christine says she is thankful for PVA’s architectural team and hopes more homeowners and businesses take advantage of the service to create more accessible spaces for people with disabilities.

“Right now, we have the aging of America,” Christine said. “And when people have conditions, they’re no longer hidden. These people are out in the community when in the past, they might not have been. To give those people richer experiences, we need to have things accessible.”

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only Veterans’ service organization with on-staff architects. PVA architects specialize in accessible design and are strong advocates for accessibility in architecture and construction industries. The architecture team also helps to develop building codes and standards for the entire nation.

Homeowners and business owners do not need to be affiliated with PVA in any way to take advantage of this free service.

Although PVA architects don’t do full designs or drawings, if you need help making an accessible space for your home or business, please contact PVA Architecture at (202) 416-7645 or pvaarchitecture@pva.org.

Learn more about PVA’s work with accessible design and architecture on our website at https://pva.org/research-resources/accessible-design/.