May, 2003 Meeting Notes

by Mary Ronayne

Our May 3, 2003 meeting entitled “A Home Safety Workshop” was co-presented by Anna Rubin, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the IRCP and Jackie Dobson, OTR/L who is the entrepreneur of Solutions for Accessibility an international company which helps people to “put the pieces together.” through advocating for and implementing the concepts of Universal Design.

Anne Harpin our Vice-President and the coordinator for this meeting, introduced Anna Rubin. She spoke briefly of her career at the IRCP, from Clinical Coordinator and Scheduler to her current position in Education and Community Outreach.

Briefly, Anna reviewed what was going on at the IRCP and reminded us that its main function is to assist persons with polio and post-polio. The center currently conducts, or is in the process of developing, research on the topics of sleep apnea, osteoporosis and bracing. The bracing project is being done in collaboration with MIT and “Smart Braces.” The center continues to seek those people willing to participate in the Polio Oral History Project and Anna spoke of plans for a Smithsonian Museum exhibit in the year 2005, a project spearheaded by Julie Silver, M.D.

As Anna began, she reiterated that a major and often preventable safety issue for polio survivors is falling.“Tripping is less than a step away from a fall.” Sixty percent of all falls occur in the home, 30-50% of falls occur in the elderly and 50% of those who fall do so repeatedly. Of those elderly who fall, 5% sustain fractures while 5-10% sustain serious injury without fracture.

Forty percent of all nursing home admissions are the result of falls or instability of some sort, and injury is the 6th leading cause of death in the elderly. After listening to those somewhat sobering statistics we were ready for the video. Anna quickly introduced the video “Safe at Home, Planning for Independence through Home Modification.” This 23- minute video was produced by the IRCP and narrated by Bob Vila, made famous through the PBS series “This Old House.” The video was very understandable and contained many helpful and easy-to-implement modifications for keeping you safe at home and preventing falls, which are the most preventable home accident.

Some suggestions and advice from the video were:

The video stressed that modifications done to make your home more accessible should never be considered a sign of weakness. Does any of this sound familiar? Planning ahead has a purpose, and that is to allow continued independence, not disability.

Jackie Dobson took the stage and gave a lively and informative presentation. She showed many helpful slides to illustrate her points and to show the advantages of the modifications that were made to various homes in keeping with the principle of Universal Design.

“A person’s limitations are due in large part not to his of her disability but to the limitations in the environment”. Universal Design refers to 3 main principles: Universality, (can be used by anyone), Adaptability, (can be changed) and Full Accessibility (visit-ability in the living space allows for anyone to visit).

Jackie stated that the 3 areas in the home that most often need design change are entryways, bathrooms and stairways. She finished up by telling us of the “Home Modification Loan Program”, a newly funded program coordinated through the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission or MRC. The program provides 0% interest to some eligible applicants and less than market interest percentage rates for others. Contact the Home Modification Loan Program Office at (617) 204-3636 or the MRC Administrative Offices at (800)-245-6543 for more information.

The program concluded with a brief question and answer period. Anna told the audience that copies of the video are available for sale through the IRCP. The audience though small in number was enthusiastically engaged in the presentation and left with many ideas and lots of food for thought.

Anna Rubin can be reached at the IRCP, (508)872-2200.

Jackie Dobson can be reached at Solutions for Accessibility, 119 Poplar St., Watertown, MA 02472 (617)923-8877.

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