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  • Writer's pictureAbove & Beyond With U


Updated: Apr 17, 2023

The space we create in our lives either attracts or detracts people, health, success, and more. The physical space we design to live in has a profound effect not only on ourselves but others.

Growing up as a child in a wheelchair in the late 1980s was good but rough at times. This was before the Americans with Disabilities Act which passed in 1990 thanks to amazing disability activists like Judith Heumann. I grew up with about 95% of my friends and family gatherings happening at my childhood home and that’s why today I want to talk about the real place where our relationships are built… our homes.

All of my relationships in life have been built around my parents’ home, my kitchen table, my TV, or events I mostly plan. Recently I was working on the housing crisis in the region. I became mad about entities building new housing and building just enough units in their dwelling so they did not have to legally make any accessible units. My perspective suddenly changed because it isn’t just about me having accessible housing but also my friends and family, current and future. You see I have realized some of my deepest relationships are with people who have created space in their lives for me- space in their schedules, in their flexibility of finding accessible public places, and also in their homes.

Being welcomed into a few of my friends’ and families’ homes that don’t just have accessible entrances and kitchen tables but also couches and restrooms…these are life changing spaces for me. The ability to just be yourself because you know your basic human needs can be met at any moment in this space, that is not directly your own, breaks down walls that few truly understand.

24% of the American population identifies with having a disability and our culture is welcoming new members every day. We are a diverse community with our one basic need matching all human needs of relationship. So what can you do in your spaces of influence? How can you change the physical spaces of your everyday life to welcome a friend or loved one while meeting their basic needs? For me, there is no better feeling than wheeling in the front door and hopping on the couch ready to share life in a space where I can just be me.

Jenna Udenberg is a disability advocate and accessibility educator.


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