On Access: Making a House a Home
A Message from ILRCSF Executive Director, Jessie Lorenz
2013 is poised to usher in an exciting new era for The Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco. I believe that the Independent Living Movement, as a whole, must begin to focus on the lessons to be learned from disabled youth who have grown up with increasing access to technology and for whom the very concept of what it means to be connected and integrated is changing. Our next chapter is not going to look like the last one. From the uprisings we have seen across the globe of young people using Facebook for social change, to the increasing number of our returning warriors that need spaces that foster healing and re-integration to society, to the on-coming "silver tsunami" that greets us as our elders continue to live longer lives, it is clear that the Independent Living Movement of the future will be tasked with integrating these challenges and honoring the diversity of perspectives that individuals under the widening umbrella of what we refer to as "People with Disabilities" have to offer. The movement of the future will necessarily cast a wider net because integration is, after all, about all of us.
It reminds me of a conversation that I had last week over dinner with my friend, Frank, about his family home. He grew up in a sprawling house that his great-grandfather had built in the early part of the 20th century and because this was the only house he'd ever lived in, it wasn't until he went away to live in a college dorm that Frank realized the home he'd grown up in had some very unusual features. One of Frank's great-uncles, you see, had been born with a physical disability. The house, built several years after Frank's great-uncle was born, was designed to guarantee that entries, windows, and all built-in features were usable by his great-uncle who happened to be a wheelchair user. These features took nothing away of the rest of the family, but they made living at home possible for Frank's great-uncle. Without ever having a name for it, Frank's great-grandfather had been using what we today refer to as Universal Design principles.
Frank's story made me think about ILRCSF: where we are today, and where we plan to be in the future. As 2012 winds down, I can't help but think about what 2013 has in store....the changes that will undoubtedly take place in the City, and the role ILRCSF will be called on to play in the lives of San Franciscans. One of the key issues ILRCSF focuses on is supporting people who want to make the move out of nursing homes or hospitals, and into community living. I hope 2013 sees a lot more people successfully making that move. I believe community living is a choice that more people would opt for if affordable housing were more accessible. ILRCSF spends a good deal of time advocating for increased affordable and accessible housing in SF, but we are also looking inward, at our own model. People living in the community don't just need a place to lay their heads down at night, community-based living is about more than that. It's about being a member of a community. Participation. Options. Neighborhood. Quality of Life.
For people living in San Francisco, there's a need for a community hub...a place where people can meet in groups, participate in community events, enjoy art, meet their neighbors, etc. The new space we're planning on moving to in 2013 aims to be that hub. When Frank told me about the house he grew up in, it made me smile. How do you build a house for people with different needs? You find out what their needs are, and develop solutions that work for everyone. And you do this before the ground is ever broken. This is the approach we're taking in working with the architects who are designing ILRCSF's new home. Our designer is both disabled and an expert in Universal Design and the preliminary plans were developed based on needs identified by consumers, staff, and board members. This truly is Universal Design in action.
Just as Frank's great-grandfather built a house that was for his entire extended family, ILRCSF is embarking on this exciting project that is for all of San Francisco. A fully accessible Independent Living Center will add value to this great city. Our triumphs are always your triumphs. This thought makes me excited about the upcoming year. With the support of friends like you, ILRCSF will make 2013 a bold year on the path to a truly accessible San Francisco.
Happy holidays to all of you!
- Jessie Lorenz, Executive Director