Monday, August 31, 2015

Home Remodeling for Disabilites and Special Needs - Michael Sledd -

From the June 17, 2015 article, Home Remodeling for Disabilites and Special Needs, which is reprinted here with permission from Sheila Abol at at 1525 4th Avenue Suite #700 Seattle, WA 98101 Phone: (877) 769-7769.

1. Federal Resources for Veterans, Seniors, and Disabled Citizens
2. Planning Your Remodeling Project
3. Creating Accessible Approaches, Landscapes, and Doorways
4. Disability Friendly Flooring
5. Electrical, Lighting, and Smart Home Technology
6. Handicap Accessible Bathrooms
7. Handicap Accessible Kitchens
8. Remodeling for Special Needs
9. Conclusion
10. Sources
For many people, owning and maintaining a home is one of the most significant investments they ever make. But for individuals and veterans living with disabilities or special needs, or seniors aging in place, the fact that much of the world outside is not built to accommodate their needs magnifies the value of a comfortable home. It’s vital they and their loved ones have access to the best resources about how to make their homes livable and enjoyable. Unfortunately, without access to the right resources, creating a comfortable home can be an expensive task.
Disability Remodeling Costs
I’ve spent more than seven years working in the construction, home improvement, and health and safety fields, and created this resource to cover essential information for disability and special needs home remodeling. This guide will identify legal and financial resources available to citizens, seniors, and veterans, offer tips to hire the right home remodeler, and suggest modifications throughout the home to make the space as accommodating as possible.

1.  Federal Resources for Veterans, Seniors, and Disabled Citizens

While the details of any remodeling project depend on specific needs, the issues of cost, available assistance programs, and legal rights should be answered before you get started. Fortunately, there are many resources available nationwide specifically for disabled, elderly or special needs individuals.

Federal Legal Provisions

One of the best places to collect information about laws, programs and services that serve disabled citizens in the United States is, the Federal Government’s website dedicated to the subject.1 In this guide, we’ll cover many of the federal programs and laws you need to know.
The most relevant law regarding residential remodeling for disability or special needs is the Fair Housing Act. While you may have to pay remodeling expenses out of pocket, and return the property to its original condition upon leaving (if you’re leasing), the law states that a housing provider can’t refuse reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, or refuse reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for equal use of the housing.

Fair House Act Requirements

Other important federal laws that could impact your home modifications include:
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
  • Title II of the American Disabilities Act of 1990
  • Age Discrimination Act of 1975
  • Architectural Barriers Act of 1968
The first three laws prohibit discrimination in programs using federal or other public funding, while the Architectural Barriers Act contains accessibility requirements for buildings altered, constructed, designed, or leased with certain federal funds after September 1969.2

Federal Funding

If you’re planning a home remodel for a disability or special need, there support programs to choose from.
The Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) Section 203(k) can help you buy and renovate a house, or remodel an existing home.3 For less extensive remodeling or improvements, the FHA also has a Streamlined 203(k) Mortgage program.4 Another option from the FHA is the Title 1 Home Improvement Loan program, which you can combine with a 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage.5

Determining the best FHA loan for you will depend on the amount you need to finance, how much equity you have in your home, and much more. If you are unsure of which option to pursue, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country and provides an online search tool to find a local office.6

Lastly, you might be able to claim a medical tax deduction for home improvements related to a disability or other medical needs. For more information, be sure to consult a financial advisor.7

Federal Funding for Veterans and Seniors

Beyond these broad types of financial resources, the federal government also offers many resources for more specific groups.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers several programs which may be useful to veterans, including the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) and Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grants, which have similar names but different eligibility requirements.8, 9

Another option offered to veterans by the VA are Cash Out Refinance Home Loans.10 These loans enable eligible homeowners to take cash out of their home’s equity and use it for home improvements.11
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides an online Eldercare Locator to help connect senior citizens and their families with the right resources, including possible financial assistance.12 The Department of Agriculture (USDA) also offers grants to remodel the homes of low-income senior homeowners who can’t secure affordable credit.13

Lastly, while a more specialized remodeling need, the HHS’s Office of Community Services’ Low Income Energy Assistance Program helps households which need weatherproofing or energy related repairs and meet income eligibility requirements and have residents who are elderly, disabled, or younger than 6 years old.14

Other Funding and Legal Resources

Depending on your location, there are many local financial and legal resources that may be useful . The best way to find out more about these services is to contact a local agency dedicated to helping disabled or special needs residents. If you are unsure about who to contact, there are many websites to point you in the right direction, including:

Funding and Legal Resources Outside the United States

Many other nations across the globe have similar provisions to support the disabled, special needs, and senior communities, and anyone considering home remodeling with disabled needs in mind would be well served to seek help. As a first step, you can consult the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund’s list of laws broken down by country.18

2.  Planning Your Remodeling Project

Hiring an Expert

More important than having a vision for your project is hiring an expert home remodeler. They not only can get the job done well, but can work to customize your home to your needs.NARI Consumers Page
When searching for a disability or special needs remodeler, you may want to find a Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP) with through the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).19 While there are many other viable options, finding certified experts is an easy way to filter through candidates. Universal Design is a valuable concept for disability remodeling because it emphasizes “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”20, 21

7 Principles of Universal Design

Whether you choose a certified professional or not, before you hire anyone make sure to thoroughly explore your options. You can review our guide to hiring home remodelers for steps to take before agreeing to any contract.

Getting Started

Now that you have considered regulations, funding, and who you want for the job, it is time to think about what specific modifications might be beneficial to you or your loved ones.
While it’s beneficial to have some concrete suggestions in mind, you should first fully evaluate your needs and goals for remodeling. Though designed primarily with the elderly in mind, Rebuilding Together, a national non-profit, has an extensive checklist of questions already made that you can use to assess your remodeling requirements.22

3.  Creating Accessible Approaches, Landscapes, and Doorways

Your first remodeling consideration should be how people will navigate into, out of, and through your home. Your rooms can be as comfortable and accommodating as possible, but this won’t matter if you or others can’t easily enter, exit, and move around.
When looking at alternatives to stairs for people with mobility issues, the two primary options are ramps and lifts. In my experience, ramps are generally less expensive, more reliable, and less prone to needing repairs due to not having electronic or other moving parts.
If you’re concerned about costs, or only have a small rise to navigate, you may want to consider a portable ramp. If you are considering installing or buying a ramp, the Northern West Virginia Center for Independent Living is a fantastic resource for getting started.24

Depending on the amount of vertical rise to your entryway and the amount of space you have to work with, a ramp may not be viable. Instead, a lift may be necessary. There are many types of lifts, including inclined platform, vertical platform, and stair lifts. Many companies specializing in lifts can help you select the best option. A good way to ensure you’re working with a reputable vendor is to check with your local Better Business Bureau chapter.25

While remodeling your entryways and exits, you should also survey your yard for ways to make it more accommodating. Leveling the ground, installing wheelchair friendly paths, and removing potential hazards so everyone can enjoy the outdoor spaces are important touches that often go forgotten.
The next parts of your home to consider are exterior and interior doorways. For starters, doorways should ideally be 36 inches wide or larger to allow for a wheelchair to comfortably maneuver through. A 32-inch wide door can also suffice as an absolute minimum if a larger door is not feasible, but it will allow little room to maneuver. Depending on the home, widening doors may require extensive remodeling. Before removing any door frame completely, consider installing either wide throw hinges or swing clear hinges, both of which can help add space to the doorway.26

Depending on the room, completely removing the door and hinges might not be a problem. In the case of bathrooms or other locations where privacy is a concern, a potential solution is to install a curtain or screen, or depending on the dimensions of the wall, a pocket door. If you go this route, consider a wall-hung pocket or sliding door, as they are easier to open than those installed in-wall.
You may also want to consider installing doors with handles and locks at lower heights, and switching out traditional door knobs for lever-handle pulls. A more expensive option is installing automatic door openers, but this may be out of your budget. You should also consider the cost and likelihood of needing future repairs if you choose to go this route.

For exterior doors in particular, look into installing a peephole or small view panel in the door at an accessible height. If you choose to install a window or view panel though, make sure that it is far enough away from the door handle to not create a potential security issue. Another alternative could be to install an intercom to enable identification of visitors.

Lastly, when it comes to doors, minimize the size of doorstops and thresholds, and for doormats, avoid anything too thick that could cause trouble for wheelchairs, and pose a potential tripping hazard for walkers with poor mobility or impaired vision.

4.  Disability Friendly Flooring

Flooring is a less popular aspect of remodeling around a disability or special need, but is one of the most important, and should be a consideration for every room in the house. Find a material that is durable, smooth, relatively non-porous, and firm, and that is not prone to buckling or bunching. These features will provide a surface that wheelchairs can easily roll on, something that will not be likely to cause slips, trips, or falls, and a surface that is easy to clean. Ease of cleaning can be particularly important in the case of homes with service animals.
Cork Flooring
The least expensive and most durable materials are usually either vinyl or laminate flooring. Avoid ceramic and stone tile outside the kitchens and bathrooms, and if used at all, make sure it is slip resistant. Wood flooring can work as well, but is generally more expensive, and also difficult to maintain and less resistant to wear. An additional benefit of harder floorings for those with vision impairment is that they will be better able to hear noises in the home.

Another option to consider is cork flooring. Cork flooring is often very stylish looking and easy to clean, and while it is firm and level, it is more forgiving to falls than many of the other flooring types mentioned above. However, due to its soft nature, it is typically not recommended for wheelchairs due to wear issues from the amount of pressure exerted by the wheels.

Regardless of what type of flooring you choose though, it is good to explore all your options and consult an expert to discuss your particular needs. There are many online resources available if you wish to do some additional research on your own.27

5.  Electrical, Lighting, and Smart Home Technology

At the most basic level, make sure all electrical controls are as accessible to users as possible. This may mean finding controls that do not require fine manual dexterity to operate. Be sure to consider all light switches, thermostat controls, electrical outlets, and anything plugged into the outlets.
Perhaps less obvious than the locations of switches, but still important, is the location and angle of the lighting itself. Light locations, angles and reflections that work well for some, may shine directly into the faces of others, so in cases like these, you may need to redirect lighting, or even change out fixtures. Also, for ceiling fans, consider installing longer chains or purchasing a unit with a remote.
Going beyond the basic technology of a point-and-click remote, some homeowners may look into incorporating more complex technologies. These could include motion sensing or voice-activated lighting in individual rooms, all the way up to technologies that allow the user to control almost every aspect of their entire home through a smartphone or tablet.28 While this technology is not affordable to many at the moment, it is becoming accessible and reasonable for more people every day.

6.  Handicap Accessible Bathrooms

Of all the rooms in the house, bathrooms are along the most important spaces to remodel for disabilities or special needs. Doing so not only affords as much privacy and independence as possible, but is also extremely important for safety reasons, particularly when entering or exiting the shower or bath, or using the toilet.
Accessible Bathroom
Along with the needs for door width mentioned earlier, the room in general should be open enough allow comfortable maneuvering. Depending on how your bathroom is laid out, this could require rerouting of plumbing.


For sinks, it can be better for wheelchair users if the sink is higher than typical, and if the sink has open space underneath. This enables the ability to roll straight up to the sink rather than having to reach or stretch over. If the existing sink has a cabinet base, it may be possible to remodel the center part of the cabinet and create the same effect without purchasing a new one. Install cabinets in-wall as much as possible to conserve floor space, and so they are not too high to reach. Similarly to doors, faucets with lever-type handles rather than knobs are easier to use, and it may even be worth investigating touch-operated faucets and other fixtures like those often seen in public restrooms.


Toilets should also have higher than standard seat heights for more ease and less distance traveled when transferring between the toilet and a wheelchair, or sitting down and standing up. Install grab bars on both sides of the toilet of course if possible, and depending on the extent of the remodel, consider rearranging the room to where a wheelchair can comfortably fit near the toilet.

Showers and tubs

There are many different options for showers and tubs, and the best choice will be dependent on your budget and whether you are completely remodeling or making small modifications.
Substantial remodeling solutions include installing a tub with a vacuum-sealed door, enabling direct walk or roll-in entry, or an open shower that is curbless or has a minor curb. If neither of these options is feasible, you can also buy various types of specialized lifts. Simpler steps that every remodeling budget should include for bathrooms are installing a grab bar, handheld shower head, and lever-handled water valves.

7.  Handicap Accessible Kitchens

Many of the principles that apply to bathrooms also apply to kitchens. Install sinks and stoves that are wheelchair friendly, cabinets at an accessible level, and valves that are lever-handled. For maximum ease of use, also make sure that:
  • Sinks are shallow-basined
  • Hose faucets
  • Pipes below the sink are insulated to prevent risk of scalding
It is also worth exploring ADA compliant appliances, as there are many that may need little to no other remodeling.

For cabinets, installing drawers for cleaning supplies near the sink and cooking utensils near the stove will make these areas much easier to use, and having adequate lengths of countertop is more important than depth.
Accessible Drawers
Other options include motorized adjustable-height cabinets, countertops, and sinks. While these sorts of options may be out of the price range for many, if your budget allows, they are worth investigating.

8.  Remodeling for Special Needs

Many of the basic remodeling tips already shared for accessibility and safety will certainly be of value to special needs individuals along with the elderly or physically disabled. That said, there are also some particular renovations to consider for individuals coping with other special needs such as an autism spectrum disorder, down syndrome, dementia, Alzheimers, or other challenges that present significant hurdles beyond physical.
It is imperative in these situations to take into account how features stimulate all the senses and emotions. Being mindful of how things around the home feel, look, smell, sound and even taste can make a massive difference in both the lives of those with special needs, and any loved ones caring for them.
Those providing for a special needs individual are often the most knowledgeable about the particular obstacles their loved one is facing, but there may also be experts available with special insight to changes you can make around the home. Because of this, your best next step after making the modifications you have already thought of is to contact a local agency that can assist you through one of the sites mentioned earlier.14, 15, 16

9. Conclusion

While the challenges presented in this guide are significant, they are not insurmountable. Creating a comfortable home is achievable with time and work, and there are plentiful resources available to assist you and your loved ones in getting there.
I hope this guide offered insight into the many financial and legal resources at your dispense, and some of the major considerations for a few core rooms in every home. If there are any particular remodeling options that interest you but not mentioned, or you have recommendations you have based on situations you have personally dealt with, feel free to weigh in with a comment below.

10.  Sources


Friday, August 28, 2015

Potomac Edison Refridge

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Recycle your old Fridge


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Hi, just a reminder that you're receiving this email because you are a customer of Potomac Edison Maryland, and may be eligible for EnergySaveMD programs.
You may unsubscribe if you no longer wish to receive our emails.

We'll pick up and recycle your old fridge or freezer and you'll get $50.
Refrigerators and stand-alone freezers must have 10 to 30 cubic feet of capacity by inside measurements and be in working condition. Potomac Edison contracts with JACO Environmental, an appliance recycler, to pick up and recycle the units. Customers must own the units being recycled. Limit two units per residential address. A check will be mailed 4 to 6 weeks after appliance collection. Additional restrictions apply. Visit for complete program terms and conditions. These programs support the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act. Costs will be recovered through a monthly EmPOWER Maryland surcharge on customer bills. Participation in these programs can help offset this surcharge. 
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Top 8 Reasons Homeowners Choose a Metal Roof

Top 8 Reasons Homeowners Choose a Metal Roof -

metal roof

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

E-News from City of Frederick - August 2015: New Police Chief, In the Street, Bike News, Farmer's Markets

Here is the August 2015 eNews from the City of Frederick. This newsletter is packed full of useful information!   It is re-posted here by permission. If you have any questions or suggestions, direct them to Susan Harding, the city's Public Information Coordinator, and author of the newsletter: The topics for this month's newsletter are shown below and the articles follow. See the e-Newsletter archives for other issues. 
~ Darcy Richards 

  1. City Welcomes New  Police Chief - Public Swearing-in Ceremony and Reception Scheduled for August 28th
  2. National Night Out - A Family Friendly Event
  3. Talk to the Mayor Tuesdays
  4. In The Street - All Day Fun - Saturday, September 12th
  5. FCAA Announces Expanded Hours for the Office of Home Energy Programs
  6. Checking Off the Carroll Creek Bucket List
  7. Weinberg Center Announces 2015-2016 Season - Frederick Speakers Series Anounced
  8. Bike News - Upcoming Bicycling Events and MORE!
  9. News from the Frederick Police Department
  10. Local Farmers' Markets - Eat Farm Fresh
  11. I Want to Report....

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In This Issue
City Welcomes New Police Chief
National Night Out
Talk to the Mayor Tuesdays
In The Street 2015
Office of Home Energy Programs
Carroll Creek Bucket List
Weinber Center 2015-16 Season
High Wheel Bike Race
Frederick Police Department News
Farmers' Markets
Report a Problem
Sign up for Alert Notifications
Job Opportunities
Labor Day 
City Hall will be closed Monday, September 7th in observance of the Labor Day Holiday.
Carroll Creek Park Update
The Galleria Fountain is the first big milestone for Phase II on Carroll Creek. To follow the progress visit the DED blog.
Stay tuned for exciting news about the opening of the next two fountains on Carroll Creek!
Share your favorite photos of Carroll Creek on Instagram at   
To find out what's happening in your City watch City Cable Channel 99!
City Board/Commission Vacancies
Quick Links
61st Administration 
of The City of Frederick  
Downtown Frederick Partnership 
It's what's happening!
To find out what the
Downtown Frederick Partnership has planned for the 2015 season

Upcoming Events 
First Saturday
August 1st
3:00 - 9:00 PM
Destination Frederick   
August 6th, 13th,
20th , 27th  
5 - 8 PM 
Carroll Creek
Movie Night on the Creek
Need the perfect gift? 
Purchase a  
Downtown Frederick Gift Card   
 Shopping, Dining and the Arts

Frederick...The Key to the Heart of Maryland. For more information visit
Connect with The City

August 2015

City Welcomes New  Police Chief
Public Swearing-in Ceremony and Reception Scheduled for August 28th

A swearing-in ceremony and reception for Chief of Police Edward Hargis will be held on Friday, August 28th at 6:00 PM in Hodson Auditorium located in Rosenstack Hall on the Hood College campus. The ceremony and reception are open to the public.

Chief Hargis officially assumed command of the Frederick Police Department on July 30th.  

National Night Out

A Family Friendly Event

Join The City of Frederick, the Frederick Police Department and your community for the annual National Night Out festivities!

Activities are scheduled for all 4 locations on Tuesday, August 4th from 6 - 9 PM.  
Carrollton Park - 455 Center Street - Officer Stephen Radtke  301-600-7552 or sradtke@frederickmdpolice
Hill Street Park - 100 Hill Street - Officer Chris Herman  301-600-4106 or
Mullinix Park - located on South Bentz Street - Officer John Meyer  301-600-1260 or

"Talk to the Mayor Tuesdays"

Mayor McClement has set aside the 4th Tuesday of each month from 2-6 p.m. to meet informally with citizens to discuss topics or issues of their choice.
The next Talk with the Mayor Tuesday will be August 25th.
The Mayor's office is located in City Hall at 101 North Court St.  No appointment is necessary and citizens meet with the Mayor on a first come; first serve basis. For details, contact Nikki Bamonti: 301-600-3835 or

In The Street - All Day Fun
Saturday, September 12th 

In The Street- For over 30 years, In The Street has been celebrated in Downtown Frederick. From 11:00 AM til 5:00 PM, the streets come alive with food, fun, and entertainment. 
Market Street Mile - A mile race for beginners, experts, young, old and in between!
Up The Creek - "Everyone's favorite after party"
The festivities continue into the evening  in the Carroll Creek Amphitheatre for those 21 and over from 5-9:00 PM.           $5.00 cover charge

FCAA Announces Expanded Hours for the Office of Home Energy Programs

The Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) is now open from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Friday in order to assist Frederick County residents seeking assistance with their household energy bills.

OHEP offers several different financial assistance programs aimed at helping income eligible households to pay utility & fuel bills, minimize energy related crises; and assist in making utility, heating & cooling expenses as affordable as possible.

OHEP is located at the Department of Social Services at 100 East All Saints St.  For more information, contact Martha Garcia at 301-600-2410 or email
 For more information on the programs and services offered by Frederick Community Action Agency (FCAA), click here.

Checking Off the Carroll Creek Bucket List

July 16 marked the official opening of the Galleria Section of Carroll Creek Linear Park as the Galleria Fountain came to life!  The fountain is located on the south side of the creek near the Delaplaine Visual Arts Center.

The City of Frederick launched a primary account on Instagram (@cityoffrederick) to share and showcase the City's unique assets.  To mark the launch, the City is asking Instagram users to share their favorite photos of Carroll Creek Park using #iHEARTcarrollcreek.
The East/West Fountain, located on Carroll Creek by La Paz Mexican Restaurant, is scheduled to open early fall 2015. Stay tuned!

Weinberg Center Announces 2015-2016 Season
Frederick Speakers Series Anounced

The Weinberg Center for the Arts is pleased to announce the  2015 -2016 Season Calendar.  For information, click on  Mark Your Calendars!

The Weinberg Center will once again host The Frederick Speaker Series, bringing world class speakers to our community illuminating current events, culture, politics and science. This year's lineup includes business mastermind Daniel Pink, actors and activists Marlee Matlin and Henry Winkler, social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson and actor George Takei.  For information on the 2016 speakers visit, Frederick Speaker Series. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, August 18th at 10:00 AM.  Tickets can be purchased on line at Weinberg, via phone at 301-600-2828 or in person at the box office located at 20 West Patrick St.

Bike News
Upcoming Bicycling Events and MORE!

Clustered Spires High Wheel Race: August 15th in Historic Downtown Frederick - View 2015 Clustered Spires Race Ad.

Grand Fondo National Championship:
September 20th

News from the Frederick Police Department

Citizens Police Academy
The CPA is a free 9-week program designed to give interested persons an overview of the many functions of The Frederick Police Department. Classes meet every Wednesday evening from approximately 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM. For more info and to enroll, visit Citizens Police Academy

Congratulations to the 18 graduates of the  56th Police Academy. 
The August Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) schedule is as follows.  All NAC meetings begin at 7:00 PM.

August 12th - NAC 8 - Hillcrest Commons Community Center
August 17th - NAC 10 - Carrollton Park
August 18th - NAC 11 - Brewer's Alley, 2nd Floor
August 19th - NAC 6/9 - Talley Recreation Center
August 27th - NAC 5  - Taskers Chance Pool House

The Frederick Police Department offers tips and a home safety checklist to help you keep your home safe. For more information , go to  Keeping Your Home Safe.

Local Farmers' Markets Eat Farm Fresh

August 8th  9AM -12 noon -"Peaches" October 3rd  12 noon - 5 PM -"Festival and Celebrating Autumn"
Market goers will be able to stroll along Carroll Creek Linear Park and shop for anything and everything local that Frederick and surrounding communities have to offer.  The markets will run from 12-5 PM and will feature various speakers and live local musical performances.
For a complete list of Farmers' Markets in the Frederick area, go to Farmers' Markets   

I Want to Report....

Do you want to report a garbage problem, potholes, sidewalk or street damage, street light out, traffic signal outage/problem, code enforcement concern, general problem and more? 
If so, go to I Want to Report and fill out the information requested.  City staff will follow up with you.  If it is an urgent issue or after hours, please call the 24 hour switchboard at 301-600-1440