Save energy and reduce stress: Accessible spaces do both

By Julie Sawchuk, Sawchuk Accessible Solutions

Five years ago, I attended Abilities Expo Toronto, anxiously looking for answers to questions I didn't even know I had. What I found was an incredible amount of information about accessible travel, different types of mobility devices, assistive equipment, evacuation chairs and examples of accessible public transportation (just to name a few). Five years ago, what I didn't find was "me." Allow me to explain.

Save energy and reduce stress: Accessible spaces do both

In Search of Accessible Solutions

One and a half years prior, I sustained a T4 incomplete spinal cord injury. After a three-month stay in Parkwood Rehabilitation hospital, I couldn't wait to go home. Little did I know how hard that would be. Going home meant returning to my 10-acre farm with the 115-year-old two-story farmhouse―the ultimate definition of inaccessible. This was just the beginning of my very rude introduction to our world that lacks access at every turn.

Throughout my rehab and recovery, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by incredible people and professionals who were amazing at what they did, including physiotherapists, nurses, doctors, personal support workers, occupational therapists, dietitians, kinesiologists, social workers, recreational therapists and case managers. Of everyone involved in my recovery, only one of them was a person with a disability like my own. She alone knew what I was going through, and how important accessibility was to allow me to have a successful recovery.

Accessible shower

Are you Exhausted by Lack of Access in Your Living Space?

We all live in this mostly inaccessible world that often deflates our dignity, endangers our safety and disrupts our independence. Lack of access is just plain exhausting. However, with smart decisions and proper planning, we can change our spaces to work with us instead of against us. Are you looking to put some energy back into your life? That is what I do now.

Sawchuk Accessible Solutions was born from a place of need: to find answers and methods to make my own space more accessible and find all that lost energy. It took a lot of research, reading, visiting and planning to understand ways to modify spaces, find products to use and train people to do the work. But now I know―and I want you to know, too.

Accessibility Expertise Comes with Experience

Over the past six years, I have applied myself to learn how to help people find "lost energy" by creating spaces that are safe and that allow for as much independence and dignity as possible. From apartments to airports and everything in between, we can find ways to use existing structures (or build new ones) where access can be improved without compromising style.

The author with an accessible sink

And, of course, the best lessons come from the mistakes that were made and the decisions that came too late. I've been there and made many and I can't wait to share them with you. No matter how well-educated and well-intentioned, accessibility experts are only as good as the experiences they have had; therefore, the best are those who have lived it.

This year, Sawchuk Accessible Solutions will be at Abilities Expo Toronto to be that person that I needed five years ago. If I had met "me" back then, I would have saved my family and myself time, money, energy, worry and frustration. I look forward to being "me" for you.

Join me on Saturday, May 14th at 10:45 at the Workshop Area to learn about all the little things that add up to make a big difference, how shortcuts are mistakes that cost money down the road and what are the biggest ah-ha moments that matter.

You'll find me and my team at booth #530 where you can access learning resources (books, courses and models) to start your own journey to save energy and reduce stress.

About the Author:

Julie Sawchuk is a best-selling author, accessibility strategist and educator at Sawchuk Accessible Solutions. She is the Chair of the Ontario Standards Development Committee review of the AODA Design of Public Spaces and is on the team developing the accessible residential homes Canadian National Building Code (B652). Julie sits on the Accessibility Advisory Committee for the County of Huron and is Secretary to the Board for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. At heart, Julie is a storyteller who helps people understand that true accessibility allows people to participate without having to dismantle barriers or change attitudes first. Contact Julie at julie@juliesawchuk.ca to speak at your next event, help with the accessibility of a project and find her books and courses at www.juliesawchuk.ca.

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