Established in 1974, Accessible Housing Society is a non-profit organization and registered charity located in Calgary, AB, with a mandate to create opportunities for safe, affordable, barrier-free housing for persons with mobility issues.
AHS was created with the construction of the Fourth Dimension (4-D) group home, Calgary’s first shared living accommodation for people with physical disabilities. The idea for the 4D was initiated in 1973 when a woman, who had a brother with epilepsy, dreamed of creating a house for people with physical disabilities who could not live independently. She wanted to help young people who were in hospitals because their families could no longer look after them, and to assist these individuals to get up in the morning, transfer, dress, bathe, or go to bed.
A women’s organization called the Jaycettes were brought in to conduct a survey to determine if such a home was needed. The overwhelming response showed that this home was greatly needed. By 1974, the project was ready to be presented to government. An architectural plan was drawn, a staffing outline was prepared, and financial estimates were calculated. It was a long waiting period, but finally the project was approved and the concept became a reality.
Financing for the property came from all three levels of government including the land for the house, which belonged to the City of Calgary. The Jaycettes purchased all of the indoor furnishings through fundraising efforts. At the same time, a two-tiered committee was formed to seek out potential tenants. The first committee was interested in finding people who were somewhat independent and capable of making their own life decisions. The second committee phsically assessed potential tenants to determine their level of disability. At last, 12 residents were selected.
In December, 1976, 4D was officially opened. The house’s name came in early 1976. It was felt that the project was an achievement that would allow persons with disabilities to be seen in a new dimension, hence the Fourth Dimension.
In 1980, Larry Lemecka and others conceived the idea of developing a Housing Regsitry to help locate and obtain barrier-free housing that was affordable for persons with mobility issues. The idea was turned into action shortly after and the AHS Housing Registry began its quest to find housing options for community clients. The Housing Registry set the stage for the Society to become a more holistic organization that could respond to diverse housing needs and situations that exist in the community. The provincial government continues to be the primary funder for the Housing Registry to this day.
In 1985 AHS expanded housing options in Calgary with the acquisition of six condominium units in a large complex called McLaurin Village. The units were made accessible and orginally used as transitional accommodation for people who needed to make a gradual adjustment to community living. AHS currently owns the units, which were later converted into a permanent living situation.
Around the time that McLaurin Vilalge was established, occupational therapists (OT’s) were hired with the Society and began consulting on barrier-free design for clients in the community. This started with AHS residents transitioning out of their existing group home accommodations to housing in the broader community. This program quickly expanded its client base when it began working with other housing agencies to renovate units in the community. The OT’s worked with contractors experienced in the area of barrier-free design and carried out joint visits with them. Part of the OT’s role at that time was actually drawing the proposed design(s) with input from contractors relative to structural considerations and cost. The OT’s also assisted clients with applying for funding for home renovations, obtaining cost estimates and overseeing the process.
There were several problems with not having an in-house design professional: 1) OT’s have knowledge of various medical conditions and can assess individual client needs. However, they are not trained as building professionals and may not discern other issues when asked to recommend a design solution or review a drawing; 2) There was no one resource that could offer assessment, design, and training; and 3) Designing a proposed renovation for a client was uncoordinated and time consuming. Therefore, a proposal was made to an anonymous donor to provide funding for an in-house design professional as well as additional OT hours to meet the growing demand for OT services.
The goal was to encourage and assist in the creation of additional, high quality, barrier-free housing in the community. The program would provide a coordinated outreach service offering education to people and agencies that work for, and with , people with physical disabilities and mobility issues. The fundraising effort proved successful and in June 1997, a registered Architect was hired, additional OT hours were added, and the title Outreach Services was officially changed to Residential Assessment and Design. Now known as the RAD program.
With the inception of the RAD program, the Society became a full service agency that was able to provde housing and support, locate and obtain housing, and keep people in their homes. In 2009, AHS acquired another property, which it called Foundation Place. At Foundation Place, and for the first time, the Society is providing housing and support to the population of people who are living with a physical disability or mobility issue, and who also may be experiencing homelessness.
The driving force behind every AHS initiative has been community need. Like the vision set out by its founders, AHS remains committed to addressing community need. We go forward with the goal of expanding the range and inventory of housing options and opportunities for the population of persons with physical disabilities and mobility issues, and with a clear purpose to address community need. To be continued…
To create opportunities for safe, affordable, barrier-free housing for persons with mobility issues by promoting innovation, partnerships, education and care excellence.
Everyone with mobility issues has the opportunity to live in safe, affordable, barrier-free housing in the community.
- Maximum Individual Independence
- Equal Opportunity
- Integrity and Trust
- Collaboration and Team Work
- Respect and Care Excellence