Category Archives: Home Modifications

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

May is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) awareness month. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is a disability in which people have multi-system illnesses as a result of contact with or proximity to substances or airborne chemicals (EPA). MCS is a chronic condition. Many people who have MCS lived or worked in areas where they were exposed to pesticides, smoke, fumes, or other pollutants. Substances that affect people with MCS include those listed above and perfumes and scented products, candles, food preservatives, aerosols, personal care products, paint, new carpets, formaldehyde and things that off gas formaldehyde like laminate floors, newspaper ink, cleaning compounds, printing and office products. Symptoms can range from headache and runny nose to fatigue, migraine, breathing difficulties, nausea, skin problems, and pain, to life-threatening reactions like seizures and anaphylaxis (MCS America).

Because chemicals, especially chemical fragrances, are so common in everyday life, people with MCS are at severe risk of not being able to access housing, employment, or meeting basic needs like shopping or participating in the community.  Many people with MCS are unemployed and some cannot leave their homes. Others’ homes are making them sick but locating housing that is free of toxic chemicals is very complicated. Additionally, a person may find that initially a home worked for them, only to develop reactivity to chemicals in that environment later.

The MCS Friends is an organization we at MDRC have partnered with in the past, looking at options for addressing housing issues. Their website has a variety of resources and ways of connecting to peer support groups. They also have a Facebook page.

I found some basic tips on accommodations and assistive technology (AT) options for the home and the workplace on the MCS America website and the Job Accommodation Network website:

  • Adopt a fragrance free policy in your home and workplace
  • Masks and respirators may work as AT for people with MCS to get out into the community
  • Live and work in places with working windows
  • Use good quality ventilation systems with HEPA filters and well-maintained ducts
  • Test the indoor air quality for dust, mold, mildew, and volatile organic compounds
  • Check the National Air Filtration Association for a local referral for air purification systems that are building-wide or at individual work stations
  • Notify people of plans to apply pesticides, paint, shampoo the carpet, or wax the floor so they may make alternative work arrangements
  • Use non-toxic materials and cleaning products
  • Use e-mail and telephone to communicate with people who choose to use fragrances
  • Build with non-toxic, chemical-free products
  • Consider organic clothing, bedding, cleaning products, and food

Do you or someone you know have MCS? What AT or accommodations are most helpful to you?


Experiencing Universal Design for a Day


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

A few weeks ago, staff from the Michigan Assistive Technology Program joined staff from Disability Network/Michigan (Centers for Independent Living) at Transitions Remodeling in Farmington Hills for a tour of their universal design showroom and hands-on interaction with assistive technology for the home.

At first, I was excited to see what I thought was going to be an “accessible” model home. I quickly realized, however, that the philosophy and designs at Transitions Remodeling centered around universal design, not just accessibility.  Universal design is more about creating an environment that will work for everyone, not just a person with the disability. It is also meant to allow people to age in place, and meet the person’s needs as they age and change.

A bidet toilet showing the water cleansing stream and controls on the side of the toiletWe explored the designs and technology used in the bathroom, including shower seats, grab bars, handheld shower heads, and specially designed floor tiles to reduce the risk of falls. I was also introduced for the first time (and got to try out) a bidet toilet. Popular in many other countries, bidet toilets have a water sprayer to help with personal hygiene and allow many people who would otherwise need assistance to take care of their needs independently in the bathroom. The model we looked at, known as the Toto, even had a dryer and a heated toilet seat.  it is not often talked about, but technology such as this can also help cut down on medical problems such as urinary tract infections.

Rev-A-Shelf shown in a high cabinet. Wire Shelving with a pull down bar


Our tour of the kitchen was my favorite part.  We were shown a pantry with slide out drawers, a dishwasher with two levels that were accessible from a seated height, and a water faucet that turned on by touch.  I was amazed by the Rev- a Shelf built into high cupboards that could be pulled down and pushed back up using a bar.  My personal favorite was the induction cook top with all the control buttons on the side built a base lift that raised and lowered by button.

We were also introduced to home safety and monitoring devices. For example, the Kwikset Smart Code Touchscreen allows you to set different security codes for different people at different times.  If you have a caregiver that comes in from 3pm-5pm, their unique code will work for that time period only.  Many home monitoring devices are now available to work with you smartphone or tablet.  You can turn on/off your lights, set a lighting ambiance or monitor who is at your front door all by using your own device,

The MV-1 in red. The side ramp is extended and inside are the driver, passenger in a wheelchair, two children and a dog in the backseat.As a bonus, our group was also given a look at the new MV-1 accessible vehicle from Mobility Ventures.  The vehicle is meant to accommodate wheelchairs whether they be the passenger or the driver.  Unlike most accessible vehicles, the MV-1 is purchased “as is” without extensive retrofitting, or lowered floors that can often scrape in driveways, snow, etc.

I hope for a day when everything will be built will the principles of universal design.  This experience gave me the opportunity to see the possibilities and dream of owning a universally designed home.   Have you thought about universal design for your current home or in the future?


What Home Adaptations Would Help You?


By Brenda Henige, Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund (MATLF) Coordinator, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Michigan staff

Do you have a disability and need some type of assistive technology to improve your functioning? You may need a modified vehicle or a home modification for accessibility. Residents of Michigan who have a disability or their family members can apply to borrow money from the Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund (MATLF) to obtain needed equipment or tools (assistive technology or AT), modified vehicles or modifications to a vehicle, or home modifications for accessibility through this program.

man in manual wheelchair pulling down a rod in a closetThe program provides loans for home modifications as long as they will increase the applicant’s accessibility within the house, apartment, or on the property, such as installation of ramps, roll-in showers, or other modifications. Individuals with hearing, vision, or other disabilities may benefit from various modifications to improve accessibility within their homes.

An individual may apply to borrow up to $30,000 and there is no minimum amount required to borrow since many home modifications may cost hundreds of dollars or much less than the maximum allowed. Here are two home modifications that MATLF approved last year:

An individual who has a mobility disability and uses a wheelchair was able to obtain modifications to his home’s bathroom, including having the doorways widened and installing an adapted shower so he can shower without assistance. MATLF loan enabled him to get around in his bathroom using his wheelchair and to shower on his own. The counter tops are now lower and drawers are located where he can reach them.

MATLF approved an accessible breezeway to connect an individual’s home to his garage. This included a ramp and plenty of room for his wheelchair to pass through. With this loan, he is now able to go to his garage where he does woodworking projects. His relative commented that this has changed his personality. Now he can go to his garage workshop whenever he wants to and spends a lot of time there working on his projects.

As the new loan fund coordinator, I have seen that this program which allows people with disabilities to borrow money to improve their independence and productivity really does empower them to accomplish more and to truly be more independent.

Please contact me for more information on the loan program at or at . You may also view loan fund information by going to our website and clicking on the link “Assistive Technology”.

Note: More information about funding for home modifications can also be found in MATP’s Funding Strategy!


Christmas AT Wish List


By MATP Staff Member Kathryn Wyeth

We’ve have been sharing our holiday AT wish lists this month, now it’s my turn! (It’s a bit late for anyone to actually shop perhaps, but I am not actually expecting to get any of these things!)

  1. Amazon Echo1. I have the Amazon Echo “Alexa” and liked it so much, I purchased one for my parents for Christmas. I did it early so I could set it up for them and give them some help using it. I haven’t explored the home automation that can be used with the Echo, so they are on my wish list!
  2. 2. I’ve tried out the Pebble Watch, and like the notification features to help me remember things and to keep in contact better with others. But I’d love to try the Apple Smart Watch. I have an Android phone, so maybe I’d have to change so an iPhone, so this probably isn’t going to happen, but hey, this is a wish list, right?5 different smartwatches
  3. Wall oven with slide out shelf under it3. For home remodeling, I’d love to redo my kitchen. Our gas range was beyond repair, so we are using a 2 burner unit and toaster oven right now. It’s ok for smaller stuff, so good most of time, though I do like to bake and the toaster oven is challenging for this. I’d love to have a drop-in gas stove top along with a wall oven that we could move to different heights if needed for aging in place.
  4. There are so many more things on my wish list, but the holiday is upon us so I’ll leave it at these 3 items! Happy Holidays everyone!