Home is the key to independence and freedom

Wide doors and hallways, low cabinets, railings in the bathroom, a ramp on the front porch. For Aretha, the accessibility features in her Habitat for Humanity home “make a big difference” for her and her two children, 22-year-old Devin and 21-year-old Zacaya.

Aretha has cerebral palsy and uses a walker, and Devin and Zacaya both have a rare degenerative muscular condition that requires them to use wheelchairs. Their four-bedroom home gives the family the space and independence to thrive, but it wasn’t always that way.

Before partnering with their local Habitat affiliate, they were renting a small two-bedroom apartment unfit for a family with mobility challenges. Though Devin and Zacaya used walkers then, frequent elevator outages forced the family to climb several flights of stairs to reach their third-story apartment. Aretha feared the day when Devin and Zacaya would need to use wheelchairs and be unable to access the apartment.

“I was able to show my children that they can do anything. Just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you can’t get it done.”
— Aretha, Habitat homeowner

Building a more accessible home

Aretha was searching for a larger, ground-level apartment to rent when a friend suggested she explore homeownership opportunities with Habitat. Soon after she was accepted into the program, she began building her house alongside volunteers who traveled from out-of-state to support her dream of homeownership.

Aretha says she was overcome with emotion and pride when she and her kids first opened the door to their very own home in 2011. “It was the best feeling in the world. “I was able to show my children that they can do anything. Just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you can’t get it done.”

Thriving in a comfortable and spacious home

The family’s Habitat home was designed with accessibility top of mind. The kitchen is spacious and has low, easy-to-reach cabinets. The bathroom is wide and equipped with hand railings near the toilet and shower. Each family member has their own bedroom. A smooth ramp leads up to their front door. The home also has no carpet, allowing Aretha, Devin and Zacaya to freely maneuver their wheelchairs and walkers from room to room.

The home’s adaptability and space offer the family more independence. Aretha says from the day they moved in Devin and Zacaya have loved having their rooms. It’s their own space for Zacaya to paint and Devin to play video games — hobbies they’re passionate about that also improve their motor functions.

Accessibility and affordability with Habitat

If she hadn’t partnered with Habitat, Aretha says they likely would have moved in with family members and potentially sacrificed accessibility for affordability. Instead, Aretha pays an affordable mortgage for a comfortable, accessible home in a neighborhood she adores.

“Here, they can be independent,” Aretha says. “They can be more mobile. They can go outside. They can use the restroom on their own. This home is the key to independence and freedom for my children and me.”