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Architect Crafts ALS-Accessible Home

Friday, August 19, 2016

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They say that things can change with the blink of an eye, but one architect has taken that concept to a new level, helping to create a home with features that can be controlled with simple facial movements.

Steve Saling is a landscape architect who was diagnosed a decade ago with ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that slowly brings about changes that limit a person’s motor abilities. He helped to design the Saling-McDonald Residencies in Chelsea, MA, a set of specialized homes for people with ALS (sometimes known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), where he now lives.

Turning to Technology

Because those living with ALS often are unable to perform many of the everyday tasks that others take for granted, many turn to technology to help them keep up. Communication devices help people with ALS to talk to others if they’ve lost their ability to speak.

Florence Center, Chelsea, MA
ALS Residence Inititiave, via Youtube

The Florence Center for Living, where the Saling-McDonald Residencies are, is also home to the Slifka MS Residence, a residential center for people living with multiple sclerosis.

Saling’s residence takes it a step further: An article in Stat News describes how in the residences, technology allows residents to control things like light switches, thermostats, and the TV simply by blinking their eyes or twitching their faces.

Beyond the smart technology that allows someone like Saling to change the channel with a smile, the residences take into account mobility for the residents and other things one might not think of offhand, like prioritizing fire prevention and safety given the residents' limited ability to get out quickly.

The Florence Center for Living, where the Saling-McDonald Residencies are, is also home to the Slifka MS Residence, a residential center for people living with multiple sclerosis.

Residence that Offers Nursing

Saling is the founder of the ALS Residence Initiative, a nonprofit that works to create more housing that helps those with ALS maintain a degree of independence.

The ALSRI notes that dwellings like the Saling-McDonald complex are residences designed to offer nursing services, not “nursing homes designed to look residential.”

Having a place to live that facilitates independence is important for someone with ALS, which currently has no medical cure (though research is ongoing). ALSRI’s mission statement says that “until medicine proves otherwise, technology IS the cure.”


Tagged categories: Access; Architects; Architecture; Landscape architects

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