A couple in Northern NSW decided to build a future-proof, seamless accessible accommodation cabin, embracing off-grid living. This is their journey.
By Graham Dietrich, Owner Of Mount Warning Estate.
This is the story of how a little country cabin became the new generation of “fully inclusive for all” luxury country escape accommodation. After successfully converting our old dairy into a romantic getaway cabin we decided that hospitality was an enjoyable way to fill the days and to make a living, so we would build another small cabin.
The design was drawn and just about to be submitted to the Council for approval when life intervened. I was getting coffee at a local café when a guy in a wheelchair entered with his girlfriend and sat at the table next to us.
I couldn’t help but overhear him saying, “The area is beautiful but there is nowhere suitable to stay”. I went over to him and asked him about his comment. He asked for a copy of the plans to see if a few changes could make it suitable for accessibility. Long story short, after mentioning the conversation to my wife she responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes”, so that café conversation changed the direction of the cabin design.
The first thing I discovered is that most people think fully inclusive accommodation is just no steps, wider doorways and hospital looking bathrooms. Plenty of people from builders, shop owners, council staff, other tradies knew parts of the accessibility building puzzle but no one seemed to know it all. And so began our journey.
I looked at a lot of accessible accommodation and grabbed ideas from many sources including speaking to Kerry Williams, (Founder of Accessible Accommodation). I talked to the Council, asked lots of questions. I surveyed The Accessible Group Facebook members, and read whatever I could find. The Facebook Group members suggested including an electric bed, hoist, and commode. And to ensure there is wheelchair access to the outdoor fire pit.
The little cabin quickly grew as we discovered making a carport big enough to load and unload items and stay dry meant other parts got bigger. A bigger, bathroom, and then the second bathroom, and bedrooms for movability soon meant the building got stretched in all directions. Keeping things at a reachable height meant a longer kitchen. And so on it went.
Our next great discovery was that baby boomers are fitting out their houses for accessibility and did not want the old-style fittings and fixtures and so a new breed of stylish showers, grab rails, toilets, vanities etc have been created, if you know where to look for them.
Along the way there were constant corrections by us to stop the tradies usual, “this is how we always do it” work. Much of it was subtle but important. I like to feel that many of them got an understanding and in the future will be conscious of accessibility. Although it is hard to break people’s habits. Near the end of the build, I heard banging outside then a carpenter came in with a smile and said, ‘I have just put up the clothesline’. I went outside and even standing I could just reach the line. I wheeled out the wheelchair we had been using to test the build and all he could say was the carpenter’s equivalent version of ‘Oh, darn’.
So along the way, many people learnt more about accessibility, and we now we have a beautiful luxury two-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin that is inclusive for all people. In the future, I hope all accommodation is built this way rather than most for one group and a much smaller amount for others who need some accessibility assistance.
To view this stunning property nestled at The Foothills of Mount Warning in Northern NSW, click HERE or call 1300 180 889. Exclusively available to book with Accessible Accommodation – your trusted source of highly qualified short term, medium term, respite and holiday accommodation.
Key accessible features:
Since then, Kerry Williams has now a consultancy service for accommodation providers to future proof their offering by renovating or newly building accessible accommodation. More info HERE
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