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Putting Out the Welcome Mat to Jim's Place

A raised, vertical flowerbed makes gardening accessible.

December 2011

For years, community outreach efforts by SAU's Master of Occupational program have quietly been helping hundreds of people with disabilities.

"The community became our extended lab," Jon Turnquist said.

Even so, Turnquist and MOT Professor Phyllis Wenthe, PhD, believed that a more hands-on experience could do even more to benefit both their students and the community.

"We dreamt of this house, a place where students could learn how typical homes can be adapted. A place where people with disabilities and the practitioners who work alongside them could experience firsthand what's possible," he said. "This would be something unique-something no other occupational therapy program in the nation had."

Thanks to a grant from the Hubbell-Waterman Foundation and the support of the O'Rourke family, Jim's Place became a reality. The 1950s era ranch-style home just down the street from Ambrose's main campus showcases modifications that support people with a range of disabilities.

Throughout the house, innovative products provide a bit of a "wow" factor.

  • A telecab "vanishing" elevator rises up from the floor and transports users from the first floor to the basement.
  • A voice recognition system turns on household appliances and makes phone calls.
  • A computerized device turns on the TV, radio or lights with one puff of breath into a tube. 
  • A rope and pulley system on the backyard deck raises hanging flowerpots onto hooks. 
  • A raised, vertical flowerbed makes gardening accessible.
  • A motorized lift that runs on tracks built into the ceiling transports users from the bedroom to the hallway, bathroom or entry room. 
  • LED lights below a glass kitchen table help individuals with low vision to distinguish food on a transparent plate.

Amy Bartels '10 MOT, an occupational therapist on the west campus of Genesis Medical Center, said she's excited to show her patients the wide range of accessibility options.

"It's always easier when someone can see assistive technology and try it for themselves," she said. "Patients with decreased functionality are often not allowed to return home. Jim's Place shows that returning home is possible-and often less expensive than a long-term care facility. People don't want to be a burden. They want as normal a life as possible."

MORE LIKE THIS:College of Health and Human Services, Occupational Therapy, Scene

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