Carpenters have long adapted to change ... whether it"s new building codes, design styles, or societal needs, the profession moves with the times, meeting its new challenges. And there"s no end in sight. Even when the economy looks bleak, there is carpentry work to be done. Although some construction may be put on hold, many projects will go forward. And as society"s needs change, people will continue to turn to carpenters for assistance.
A helping hand
Since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, new public construction has been designed to accommodate those with physical disabilities, and existing structures were retrofitted to include curb cuts, grab bars, handicapped-accessible toilets, and other necessities for those who use wheelchairs and other means of assistance.
Today, more and more people are recognizing the value of such accommodations in their own homes, and not only for those with physical handicaps. As the population ages, a growing number of elderly need safety features in order to remain in their homes. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes require constant upkeep of these features to ensure the safety and comfort of their residents.
Boomers look to the future
Even some healthy baby boomers who build new homes are looking to the future, having houses designed with aging-in-place in mind. Many desire single-story living, or at least a master bedroom on the first floor to minimize having to use stairs. Hallways and doorways are wider than in older homes to accommodate a wheelchair, and there are no raised saddles between rooms to allow for smooth transit. To help those with arthritis or other needs, door knobs can be changed to levers, which don"t require turning.
Attics may become a thing of the past, replaced by larger garages or sheds that can accommodate storage needs. And those garages will be attached to the house and level with the living space, not requiring stairs.
For those in wheelchairs, kitchens can be designed with lower cabinets and countertops, and bathrooms with wide shower stalls equipped with a seat and grab bars. Existing homes with stairs can be retrofitted with ramps and with non-stick flooring surfaces to prevent slips and falls.
Carpenters can be at the forefront of the movement to help people with disabilities, as well as those who are actively planning their future homes, by becoming well-versed in the needs of this population and studying the relevant codes and construction techniques. We"re not getting any younger, and we"re going to need your help.