What if the tiny house movement wasn’t just privileged white elites showing how cool they are for having less stuff and it was actually aimed at being an affordable, accessible housing option for people in real need? Wouldn’t that be grand?
on the one hand i think small housing units have already been used as a solution for homelessness, so i guess that’s one instance of the movement not being based on privilege (the privilege of wealth specifically)
but i mean since people in wheelchairs (just as an eg) need more space (more structures such as ramps, wider corridors, etc) and the movement revolves around making houses as small as humanly possible (it’s there in the name), i’m not sure accessibility and the tiny house movement can be made compatible without the latter changing into something entirely different. i’d be v interested in ppl’s opinions or suggestions re: accessible tiny houses tho
Boy howdy, have you come to the right place. For context: I am paraplegic and require use of a wheelchair at all times (a manual one, in my case). I also love tiny houses and want one so bad.
There are two big differences that would be needed between an accessible tiny house and a regular tiny house: floor space and levels.
Many tiny houses have built-in furniture, which is fairly easy to navigate around when you can shimmy yourself into small spaces. In order to maximize floor space to make room for maneuvering in a chair, you’d need to forgo built-ins and maximize the use of drop-down furniture. It’s actually pretty easy to do, since fold-up or fold-down furniture just takes up wall space once it’s folded flat. As long as you’re not in the habit of leaving piles of stuff on surfaces, it would be easy going to make your tables, chairs, and counters all fold flat against the wall whenever you’re not actively using them.
The other thing tiny houses have a lot of is a multi-level set up, usually with the bed in a loft in what would normally be considered “nonfunctional” head space. Obviously that’s not going to fly for people who can’t hoist themselves up a set of stairs every time they want to take a nap. Folding is an option again here, but you can also use an automated set-up akin to a garage door. Just press “up” to raise your mattress to the ceiling (and use up that delightful spare space above), then press “down” whenever you want a little snooze. That kind of setup would be a great universal design, too, since you could raise or lower the bed to exactly the height that works for you.
For an example of a tiny house that would actually be pretty damn accessible, check out this bad boy. Open floor plan? Check. Garage door bed? Check. Fold-up surfaces? Check. Easily re-purposeable furniture? Double check, this bad boy’s a goldmine. The only downsides are the stair into the kitchen area and some heavy-looking pieces that might be tough to move around.
So just saying, but as someone with a (hidden) disability who is now widowed from someone who acquired a mobility disability, making smallish spaces accessible is totally do-able. I have been moving to smaller and smaller spaces, and while my current situation is not wheelchair accessible, I could easily move into an accessible room in the same house come next summer.
Honestly, I think the tiny house movement has overemphasized spaces that look like a stage set for “The Music Man” miniaturized. Great if you want to live in the house from American Gothic. Not so hot if you’re looking to make affordable, accessible housing. All that detailing costs money, as does having to weatherproof every wall, etc.
I’ve lived in a tiny apartment- under 400 square feet (and yes, it could have been smaller and still worked for me and my stuff, but also sharing it with my late husband? It was as small as we wanted to go at the time. I think that tiny apartments deserve more interest, both self sufficient ones and ones that use a pod structure to share resources. Think pod style dorms with shared living room and kitchen space.
Currently, I live in a cooperative house. My bedroom is mine, and I share living room, kitchen, dining, and bathroom spaces with several housemates. We have a cooking rotation for dinners and a formal division of housekeeping tasks along with a system for dividing maintenance tasks. I have organized my room with lots of floor space and the ability to convert from social to sleeping mode. Because I pay very little rent and my food costs are kept low, I can afford to live very close to downtown where stuff happens and where I can rely on busses for transit.