The Independence Ecovillage (IEV) project was born of the idea that individuals with physical disabilities have a right to housing that maximizes their self-sufficiency and promotes their well-being. Our current proposal for IEV consists of approximately 30 one-bedroom homes designed to be fully accessible, constructed with exclusively green building materials, and funded via a combination of volunteer labor, donations, and grants. Plans for the property include an accessible community/recreation center featuring adaptive exercise equipment, a communal dining space and kitchen, and a large vegetable garden. The design of this community is intended to serve as a cost-effective model that can be replicated throughout the state and the country.
There currently exists a major shortage of affordable, accessible homes in Maryland and across the United States. According to a 2015 HUD report, less than 1% of U.S. homes are wheelchair accessible and even fewer are both affordable and accessible. In Maryland alone, this shortage is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. The IEV project is a proposal for a partial solution to the housing crisis facing individuals with disabilities.
For individuals living with mobility restrictions, it is vital that homes are constructed in a way that promotes residents’ functional independence. Accessible homes provide unique features such as lowered kitchen cabinets, counters, and sinks; roll-under stoves and bathroom sinks; widened doorways; wheel-in showers; and raised electrical outlets. Areas outside the home must also be accessible. Often people with disabilities are isolated within their homes due to a lack of accessible areas outside the home and a lack of access to transportation. The design of IEV will promote community integration by ensuring not only the accessibility of all homes in the development, but also the accessibility of all public spaces (e.g. gardens and recreational facilities), and close proximity to accessible public transportation. Shared facilities within the community encourage the development of relationships among community residents, mitigating the problem of chronic loneliness and isolation that disproportionally affects individuals with physical disabilities.
Because the project is designed to be a replicable model, it is critical that the design of IEV considers the effects of new building construction on both indoor and outdoor air quality, water quality, and CO2 emissions. The specter of climate change no longer simply looms over us, but is actively causing damage to the health of both humans and our environment. According to a 2015 report from the Lancet’s Commission on Health and Climate Change, climate change “represent[s] an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health.” It is not only possible, but also cost-effective to build healthy homes that are free of toxic building materials (e.g. those containing formaldehyde, styrene, and other carcinogenic chemicals), do not exacerbate the problem of climate change, and do not further strain our limited potable water supply. This can be achieved by utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar panels, exclusively green building materials, and rainwater harvesting systems.
Disability Partnerships is currently seeking nonprofit partners with a mission of promoting affordable and/or accessible sustainable housing to help us bring the IEV project to fruition. If you work for an organization that would like to partner with us, please contact us. For individuals and organizations who would like to contribute time, financial resources (including land), or pro-bono services to the IEV project, please click on the button below to either donate or get in touch.