When we hear the word “access” or talk about “accessibility,” we might think we know what we mean and that others have a good idea of our meaning also. However, there are several different meanings and ways to apply the term “access” when talking about our aging-in-place businesses.
Probably the first thing that comes to mind is the ability to enter a doorway unhindered. We speak of accessibility in terms of how well someone can approach an exterior doorway and gain access or entry through it. When there are steps involved, an incline to walk up, a stoop that often provides only a small standing space, or a door that opens into the accessway, we say that a person’s access or accessibility to that opening is infringed. We want to make sure that there is an open and easy path for someone to gain entry to and through that space.
Once inside that entryway, access means the ability to maneuver in that space and move about within the home. Visitability is a large part of this type of accessibility as well because we are looking for entry as well as safe and comfortable use of the space by someone who doesn’t normally live in that home – a visitor, neighbor, or houseguest.
If people are using some type of mobility assistance such as a wheelchair, cane, or walker, we consider their access in terms of them being able to use the walkways and doorways without facing significant challenges from elevation changes or steps.
Once inside a dwelling, access takes on additional meanings. Any movement that a person undertakes – raising their arms, reaching out, lifting, sitting, walking, grasping, opening cabinets or drawers, turning on faucets and switches, and using controls or fixtures, for instance – is all part of what we deem access as well. Access is more than just walking or moving forward. It’s more than stepping. It’s more than going through a doorway or moving about in a room. It has to do with all of the physical movements that someone undertakes in the home.
Range of motion, or the ability for people to extend their arms from the elbows or shoulders, is an important aspect of access because people need to be able to reach and use items that are stored on shelves and in cabinets. They need to be able to open doors and windows, adjust the temperature, turn on the water, and avail themselves of the other controls in their home.
Inside a space such as the kitchen or bathroom, access applies – among the other meanings already mentioned – to being able to use the space comfortably. It means opening cabinets and drawers and having sufficient room to open them comfortably without bumping into a wall, other cabinets, and island, enclosure, or other something else behind them – including another person who might be walking past or standing in the same space with them. Proper access permits more than one person to be in the same space as someone else at the same time, whether they are doing the same or different activities or just walking through the space.
Access also means the way we market our services or approach people who might need what we offer so that they know about the solutions we provide. It might be through various forms of advertising or through our professional contacts and strategic partners that are able to refer us to people who need what we provide.
Access is a word with many meanings that we apply within our aging-in-place business – considerably more than just basic use of doorways.