Sunday, 20 August 2017

An Accessible Home - We've Moved In!!

Hi everyone

I realised somewhere along this journey that I forgot to update and really thanks to winter, selling our current house and the racing back and forth between the two properties I just had NO motivation to complete the blog!
That was really remiss of me as many of you were following this progress with interest and hopefully to learn from our experience.

So let me update you...
A few things to move in

We Moved 3 weeks ago

The big news is that we took ownership of the new house and moved in 3 weeks ago 1 day before our son turned 10 years old

To add to the fun it was school holidays, our house sale had fallen through so we had to get the house ready for open homing again, and I was sick with a bad cold!
It was a bit of a hectic period in our lives. We had to hold off moving in so we could keep our current house open home friendly with furniture.  So we moved camping gear to the new house and had a small amount of food/tea making facilities and started spending a few hours a day just hanging out at the new house getting used to the vibe.  Then all in a rush my Sister and Brother in Law arrived, and the next day the movers were there and BANG! We moved into the new house.

What was the final few months like in the build?

Thats what you all really want to know, as the house progressed it went all quiet and we couldn't really visit the house as it was constantly busy with tradespeople installing gib, painting walls, landscaping the section or generally busy within.  In the final month I was onsite often to give information to the builders on where we wanted rails, the shower seat, the hooks for our sons indoor swings and lots more.  In the last week we had the Occupational Therapist visit and look at the rails, ramp, deck and thresholds to ensure we had to all correct.

Was it a drama? Yes, it WAS!

Unfortunately as we neared the end a series of issues arose which threw us all.  The major stumbling block?  The front door, which was an aluminium prefabricated frame and door.  When we had the deck and ramp installer visit the site to discuss installation he pointed out the door and threshold weren't going to be level and his ramp wouldn't help.  We were shocked! We just hadn't noticed that the frame of the front door wasn't level, we just assumed that our Building Company understood our needs and it was all in hand.  This was late on a Friday when the house was all locked up and the Builders had gone home.  So over the weekend we fretted, and on Monday I organised a meeting onsite with EVERYONE to go over the issues.  It was discovered that the decking contractor was right, the door frame did in fact have an uneven lip all the way around and we were never going to have a level entry.  I got upset, I got angry, I wandered off for a wee cry.  By the time I got back the husband had come up with an idea.  He headed to the prefabricators in his lunchhour and had a long meeting with them where they designed a commercial door frame that would accommodate our front door and provide a level entry.  The building company admitted their mistake and were willing to cover all the costs.  The only issue?  It set our move in date back by 3 weeks. In the end it was a big job to remove the old frame, chop out a large piece of the concrete slab at the front door so that it could be recessed more and allow a strip drain for the new door and any water to drain away.  It took them the best part of two days to replace the door frame and rehang the door, then re-level the inner concrete floor and relay the vinyl planking at the doorway.  But in the end we had a perfect level entry door which our son can easily roll in and out of! We've tested it quite a few times since then.
This was the original frame for our front door that
as you can see is hardly flush

Semantics and Understanding
What we discovered with the door fiasco was that what we considered to be level entry had a different meaning to the building company and builders in general.  To them Level meant NO STEPS, or all on one level, it didn't mean flush, no edge/lip/frame that could stop a ball, wheel or whatever rolling from outside to inside without issues.  They learnt what we meant, we realised we were innocently trusting people to understand our needs and they just didn't get it.  We had to be really on top of it but we hadn't been.  We should've resolved the problem months before but just hadn't spotted it. So we get that now, but it all worked out in the end and we're all happy.
Evan trying out the roll in/roll out fix for the deck through the sliding doors

But do we love the place now?

Short answer? YES!
Its great having all the turning space, the huge bathroom with ease of access between our sons bedroom.  Its been great to take him to the toilet, then into the bath, and then into his bedroom to get dried and dressed and into bed each evening.
Having an internal access garage is great, the wide halls and doorways are fabulous and such a life changer! It took a good week to get used to the light switches being at 900mm high from the floor, which is the Lifemark standard for wheelchair users.  Also the plugs all being at a higher level too. But our son has enjoyed having switches at HIS level.  
All the turning space and room in our main living area is great although we do have to get used to how big the space is and not to fill it up with stuff!
Our son loves the place, he is very comfortable and enjoys moving about, checking things out. 
Just after we moved our son got a newer larger wheelchair and when that arrived we realised very quickly why we designed the place the way we did.  It was obvious the place is made for future growth and is going to work admirably as he gets older.
Before the furniture went in - a great place to practice crawling

Lifemark - FIVE STARS!

Yes, at the end of the build we got the Building Company to send in the final assessment with a few photos from us of the thresholds.  After a bit of discussion from the assessors with my husband they were satisfied that our home met their highest rating and we were awarded the 5 Star Lifemark Certification.  We even have the certificate to prove it.  What does that mean?  Well if you followed other blog posts about us deciding on the Lifemark process you'll know that we have proven our home meets the best standard for accessible and universal house design.  We have hopefully got a place that will continue to work for those principals we were assessed for.

Is there anything we could change?

Well when we started this process our son was quite good at standing transfers and we were working hard to get him self transferring as well.  One of the things we did and still do is help him into and out of the car.  So he with help gets out of his wheelchair and we help him to lift into the car and sit down in his carseat.  There is quite a bit of help needed, and lifting and adjusting, as well as picking up the wheelchair and putting it in the back of the car. Hes now 10 years old, so hes heavy, and tall, and its awkward, heavy and tiring work for anyone helping him.  So we saw the Hospital Car Support team who assess his vehicle needs in the past year as well.  The outcome?  He really should be in a van with a hoist, and his new wheelchair accommodates that, it has places to add tie downs, and a chest harness for travelling in a vehicle.  So we realised that the new house design didn't have a big enough garage with a high enough garage door to allow a high top van and a wheelchair hoist to be used inside.  We groaned at that oversight, but really a year ago we didn't think that was even an option, perhaps that was silly of us, but its too late now.  We think the van will just have to be parked in the drive and the hoist used there when we eventually get around to using it.  Right now he still is helped to get into and out of the car in the garage with no problems.  

Another issue?  its awkward to get out to the washing line, we either have to go out the front door, around the footpath, through the swing gate (no handle he can reach through and use), and then out to the line.  Or it off to his bedroom, pull open the sliding doors, and down the portable ramps we have there which are just a little too low (about 1-2cm?) and down to the line.  Or from the garage where the laundry is, through a standard sized back door, put in a portable metal ramp, and off to the washing line.  But there is also from garage, out to living area deck, down ramp by the master bedroom and along the grass to the washing line (right now thats inaccessible thanks to the weather turning the new grassy ground into a bog).

Then there is the letterbox, and the front door ramp...the footpath off the ramp ends in a 90 degree turn to the left and the letterbox, but there is grass around the letterbox and at the end of the footpath.  So in order for him to get to the letterbox he has to trundle around an awkward (although wide) right angle, down onto the driveway and slide up to the letterbox but he needs to drop his front wheels onto grass in order to open the flap to see if letters are within. The letterbox really needs a handle otherwise he can't open it, it also needs a few concrete pavers to stop his wheelchair sinking into the soil!

But those are minor and all in all the place we designed really well.  I am sure in time we'll think of other things we could've done differently, but right now we are happy to be living in a purpose built home that has at least taken some of the stress off living with a kid with a disability.

thanks for following our journey


Friday, 24 March 2017


Hi everyone

I bet you've all been wondering how this build has been going and I have been meaning to update the blog with where its at right now.  Well we have a Roof! So thats a start.  Its also been waterproof wrapped as we now head into Autumn, so even though its not weather-tight quite yet its still keeping the recent rain off the framing and most of the interior.  Next week the Brick exterior cladding starts, the windows are due, and we are also about to spend time with the electrician deciding on the lights, light switches and power points etc.  I will update a bit more on that further in the blog but first lets do a photo timeline update so you can all go OOH & AAH at it 😀

Photo Timeline

Week One

Week One - Day One - Excavation Starts

Week One - Day 5 - the rib raft floor starts

Week Two 

Week Two - Day 1 - the rib raft framing is down
Week two - Day 3 - the Concrete Slab is done

Week Three

The framing begins:

And Aerial shot taken by our builder showing the frame - it looks so like the plans!

Week Four

Looking at the spot the large sliding doors will go (this is the side of the house)

Looking at the front of the house the lounge windows to the left and the front entrance in the middle

Week Five 

An Aerial view of the trusses for the roof

The scaffolding is up and the roof goes on soon

The front of the house is now starting to look like a house

Week Six 

The roof is done! The waterproof wrap is being done and the
scaffolding will come down soon

Week 6 - Day 5 - the framing for the gib is already
 going into the garage - soon they will start to line the interior

Whats due next?

Well its Autumn here and the weather is starting to settle in so its great that they got the roof on when the weather was better and they will have a more or less dry area to work in.  In the next few weeks they will be pre-wiring the house, starting to put up the battens for the gib (drywall), reinforcing the walls where we want shelving or things hanging from the wall like rails, and obviously the exterior starts to come together.

LifeMark Accessibility and the Electrical Walkthrough

So next week we have the Electrical walkthrough with the Electrician to work out where lights will go, power outlets, heated towel rails and other items.  So the Husband has spent time going through our LifeMark assessment to make sure we have it all in hand and can spend time explaining to the Electrician just WHERE things can go.  

The guidelines are quite specific. For a start, plugs can't be put within 30 cm of the floor. For 'bonus points' plugs should be at a consistent height between 50 and 120 cm from the floor, and for even more points plugs should not be within 50 cm of an internal corner.

Humm... Keeping plugs out of the corners should be fairly easy, but having them all at mid-thigh height in all rooms will be be challenging,

One thing the Husband is keen on is recessed low-intensity lighting in the hall - like what you have on stairs - with the reasoning that we are often up in the night to check in on the boy. The number and placing of these lights has become a bit contentious.  He also worried about the power they would use for awhile - the LED lights are rated at 1W, but the driver losses need to be taken into account. Two 1W lights for 12 hours a day, for a month is about  1kWhr - or 20c of power. per month. Less than a cent a day to not stumble round in the dark every night is well worth while.

Talking of lighting, the location of light switches is also specified in the standard. They should be at the same height as the door handles, Must make sure that the electrician and builder agree about the handle height. We also need to have light-switches at both ends of the corridors, its giving us a small problem as we have three doors entering the end of the hall, so do not have a clear wall space to place the switch on! 

We also discussed including some hard-wired panel heater, which seem like a good idea as they will be low-profile and not obstruct moving a wheelchair around, and avoid having cables over the floor. The downside is we will need to know where the furniture will be to avoid having a heater where we will want to place the bed. It is a tough call, as we tend to have a heater on overnight during winter to help avoid winter snuffles and chills. Not having these also avoids having to decide what wattage heater to install. So a compromise might be to install an extra power point where we might want to hard-wire a heater once we get settled in. 

There is always so much to think about with these things its easy to get overwhelmed!  One thing I still wish we'd considered was removing the wardrobe doors and turning the wardrobe into a recess we can use for 'parking' equipment.  Other families have chosen to do that and it makes sense to have the wheelchair, walker and maybe the standing frame somewhere out of the way.  Of course we are also in the middle of teaching the young man to self transfer to his wheelchair, his walker and possibly the bed.  All this means that the equipment needs to be within easy reach.  No doubt as the house progresses we'll have a clearer idea of all that.

We'll try to update again as the build progresses, thanks for stopping by to view our blog!


An English Tutorial of Finnleys Freya & Kroodie Sweatshirt Pattern - PART ONE

I have been looking for sometime for a good sweatshirt pattern for my son for the upcoming Winter Months.  Inspired by some great hoodies I have seen on Pinterest I found my way to the German language pattern Kroodie which is a variation pattern for the Freya Vest.  Both are designed and sold by Finnleyswelt and can be purchased from their website/shop.

I only discovered after buying them both that the Kroodie only goes up to size 134cm whereas the Freya pattern I brought was for size 140cm and above!
Because my little guy is almost 10 years old but not quite there in height yet (hes probably only 135cm tall) hes stuck in the inbetween sizes, basically a size 134-140cm so I brought the two patterns I needed.  I was surprised when I realised the Kroodie was just a variation for the Freya child vest pattern and only came in sizes 74cm - 134cm.  But nevertheless I can grade the sleeve variation from 134cm to 140cm and above fairly easily.

What was that you said?

So then I embarked on translating using Google Translate the downloaded and purchased  PDF patterns.  It made for some hilarity when I tried to then translate the translation as 'Rubber' was a translation from the German 'Gummi'.  It turned out Gummi was actually elastic (thanks to the picture tutorial in the pattern) and that the tunnel the translation referred to was in fact the elastic casing.  You can imagine my confusion when it said Rubber Tunnel??

I then googled and went a bit silly surfing endlessly on Pinterest in the hopes there might be a tutorial in English.  Either I just chose the wrong phrase or one just didn't exist because there didn't seem to be one out there in Internet Land.  So that brings us to this blog entry.  If you like the look of the Freya Vest with the Kroodie variations (Sleeve & tube neck) but like me aren't a native German speaker I am hopeful my tutorial will inspire you or at the very least fill that gap on the Internet for those that want to make a stylish sweatshirt for your child too.

I must admit those German designers know how to design some stylish clothing for our kids!

Heres some inspiration I found on the internet using the Freya+Kroodie pattern (click on the photo to be taken to the website with more info not in english though)

Stubbielau's beautifully made Freya+Hoodie in size 122cm
Nadelzaubers gorgeous girls variation of the Freya+Kroodie

You'll find plenty more inspiration at Finnleys Gallery page
What the Freya vest looks like without the Kroodie sleeves 

Printing out the Downloaded Pattern

Now its time to start testing the pattern after much fiddling about working out what it is I had and printing out the pattern pieces then sellotaping together it was time to find my sweatshirting and prepare to cut out.  The german language tutorial that comes with the Freya pattern (which is the main one you'll need to make the vest without the sleeves (the standard Freya design)) has a handy chapter printout list on page 5 but unless you're quite good with German you will still need to work out which pages to printout and keep together.  Unfortunately the pages aren't numbered and there doesn't appear to be a legend to help you work out which pattern pieces go with which when sellotaping them together.  So I will try and help you below.  In saying that though page 7 does have a picture with a sort of list to help you work out what to cut and how many pieces.  Again its in German.  But you can sort of work it out.
I am going to be sewing a Freya+Kroodie sweatshirt for my boy so I will be grading the Kroodie plain sleeve pattern (with the ribbed cuff) to a size 140cm to match the Freya vest size 140cm from the other downloaded pattern.  
So going by the cutting list on page 7 and the printing list on page 5, I chose to printout pages 13-24 of the Schnittmuster (Pattern) and pages 37-40 - I am hoping all those pieces will be what I need to make the vest at least! 
I will endeavour to take photos of my piecing the pieces together and showing you the cutting out of the pattern so you too can make sense of it all when the time comes to make your own.

Stay tuned for PART TWO - CUTTING OUT


Sunday, 19 February 2017


Week one, day one - time to excavate the section

Hello and welcome to 2017!

Well we should probably have had an update on all the goings on and hiccups that have transpired since my last post about our new Accessible Home here in Canterbury, New Zealand. But life and Summer Holidays got in the way.  However since the resource consent came through a few weeks ago our build has now started! So we can now update the process as we go along.

Lifemark Update:

We got confirmation at the end of last year that our design and build earned a Provisional 5-Star Lifemark assessment which was both exciting and empowering.  We now know that our design should allow our son to live there happily and grow up without any further adaptations on the house or a new house being built to accommodate him in the future (unless he wants to move out and live independantly from us).
Over the summer our currently 9 year old wheelchair and sometimes walking frame boy grew and is rapidly outgrowing everything, his wheelchair, our car, his bed, his clothing, and in some respects our house! Its almost like this house can't come along fast enough despite the bittersweet regret of losing our little slice of paradise here in rural Canterbury.  So we have had to go through the process of requesting a new wheelchair, a car modification (or if necessary a new van with hoist), a hospital bed, and lots of other new equipment.  Its obvious hes not a little boy anymore but will soon be 10 years old.

Week One of the build and already they have the rib-raft base down

Too late for cold feet:

So our building company confirmed about 10 days ago that the new build was starting and emailed a login to their project management software online.  We popped around late in the afternoon of the first day to see progress on the section and instantly thought "Oh dear look at how small that section is".  We currently live on a section that is 2000sqm+ and this new section is 768sqm so you can see why yes, it is a lot smaller.  That is part of our decision, to down size the section so we can spend less time trying to keep the land from turning into a wilderness and more time giving our son the best life possible.  This house is designed to do that, to alleviate all the space issues, the ability to turn in the corridor, or walk past him in the kitchen, and a better flow and layout for all of us and especially our wheelchair user.  But, as you might imagine after spending 15 years living in a rural town with a large beautiful established garden there is a sense of regret and what might have been, just more realization of what we are leaving behind and all the memories we have made here.
Summer is also giving way to Autumn here so we also feel sad that this is the last summer we will ever spend in this place.  With these feelings is also the building excitement that in almost 5 months time we will be moving into a new purpose built house in a suburban environment within walking distance of schools, parks and the local Aquatic Centre (our favourite weekend space).
School started for the year two weeks ago too so life has quickly got busy and so far we haven't had too much time to even realise the big event ahead of us.  Life, appointments, school commitments, work and day to day events mean some days you forget that they are building a new house for us 8 minutes drive away.  

The New House Begins...

Week Two - Day 1 - Plumbing Services in - reinforcing mesh on

Its now the second week of the build and already the rib-raft slab is 80% complete and when we visited today the reinforcing mesh is on and plumbing for all the sinks, baths, and toilets etc was clearly visable.  It won't be long until the concrete is down and the framing starts.  The project management software is showing the end date of the build to be the end June so we now have an idea of just how quickly this house will be built! This year our son turns 10 years old at the end of July and we can't help but feel thats when we'll be moving into the new house, and what a birthday present that will be!

But does our son really want this change?

Something has been happening to our little man since we started visiting the building site, he often gets teary, clingy and a little upset.  He is non-verbal and talks with an ipad AAC software (see previous blog posts about that) so its often hard for us to understand just WHY hes upset.  He just is.  Often when we discuss the house and moving he gets teary.  We're starting to suspect hes not keen on the move and is starting to get upset at the thought of it.  We will have to sit down with him and try and discuss it with him and with luck he will tell us if this whole process is scaring him and leading to these unhappy moments.  Its going to be a big overwhelming experience for us all and is guaranteed to cause serious upheaval so this is not unexpected.  Just being gentle and calm with him and talk about it as positively as we can we're hoping will bring him around.

More to come...

So keep stopping by the blog and see how our build is going we expect to post more photos and updates as it progresses.