“Accessible Design Sure Would Be Easier If We All Had The Same Abilities”

Each person is different – even identical twins. Married couples, brothers and sisters, parents and their children, and next-door neighbors are different. They may have many similarities in terms of outlook on life, heritage, history, age group, educational level, hobbies and interests, ethnicity, and many other factors that can create a common bond. Still, they grew up differently and experienced life differently.

Even people who went through school together with the same teachers and subjects spent their non-school hours with their families, neighbors, and other people. They watched TV shows, read, played, interacted with family members and did things apart from their fellow students that they experienced school with each day.

No matter how similar someone’s life experiences are to another’s, they can impact each individual in different ways. Their innate personality filters or screens what goes on in front of them and around them so that life’s experiences register with each person in various ways – all different.

There is no question that we go through life and receive input differently from each other. Some of this has to do with our natural affinity for certain topics or abilities. For those who seem gifted at sports, they watch sports on TV and discuss and study athletes they want to emulate. Depending on their favorite sport, or more than one if this is the case, they practice hitting, throwing, catching, or running to improve themselves. They spend as much time as they can thinking about their sport or sports.

People who are artistic think about drawing, painting, sculpting, composing, photographing, performing, singing, or dancing. They get books and videos to improve and practice their techniques. They spend time learning how to become even better at something they already seemed to be gifted in doing.

People who like to bake or cook concentrate on learning as much as they can about their area of interest and learn their way around the kitchen. The same is true of people with a flair for mechanics and repairs, disassembling, inventing, constructing, and reassembling items. They spend time doing this.

People with an interest in science, geology, history, astronomy, literature, languages, medicine, nursing, teaching, or so many other pursuits will find the time to explore the topics that interest them so they will become even better at them and likely pursue them as professionals at a later age.

The list goes on, but the point is that we are endowed with different levels of interests and innate abilities in a range of different topics. Brothers, sisters, parents, and others growing up in the same home may not share any of these interests in common with other family members.

In addition to various mental, creative, or performance abilities or levels of achievement that we have been born with or acquired and developed from a relatively early age, we all have different physical abilities, traits, and characteristics. We come in various heights, with a range from under three feet for children to over seven feet for some adults. Along with, and often independent of height, are physical strength abilities. Some people can lift or hold very little or nothing without help from someone else. Others are quite strong and can lift enormous amounts of heavy objects. Most people can lift some weight although this ability typically decreases with age as muscle mass declines.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all we the same height and weight, that we all had the same stride and gait (which could happen if we all were the same size), that we all had the same arm extension and range of motion to be able to reach items on shelves and in cabinets, that we all had perfect vision and hearing, that our hands and fingers were strong enough that we could pick up and hold onto objects of the same size and weight, that we could all climb stairs the same, that we all could walk without any balance concerns of worries about falling, that we could sit or squat and stand back up aging – even holding something we retrieved in the process, and that we had no other physical limitations that inhibited the use of our homes? Then all homes could be designed essentially the same.

Clearly, we aren’t the same as each other in any category, which is why we have to personalize all of our aging in place remodeling efforts and treatments so that we accommodate individual abilities and skill levels. When we eliminate steps, enhance footing and illumination, reduce the effort needed to open doors and drawers or operate typical household controls and switches, we have helped to level the playing field and counteract the differences in ability that we all share.

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