Six-year-old Jaivaun Francis’s Kensington, Bklyn, home is getting a no-cost makeover courtesy of United Cerebral Palsy of New York City’s Access to Home program, which subsidizes home modifications for families with disabled children. It’s a good thing, too, because as things stand now, Jaivaun runs the risk of breaking his neck every time he leaves for school.
Jaivaun has cerebral palsy and a host of related conditions that make him “medically dependent.” In addition to needing a wheelchair to get around and a communications device to convey what he’s thinking, Jaivaun needs help eating, dressing, getting in and out of bed, using the toilet and doing all of the other daily activities most of us take for granted.
Six daunting steps stand between the front door and the sidewalk of the 1930s bungalow where Jaivaun (pronounced jih-VON) lives with his parents, who emigrated from Dominica in 1995, and two siblings. Desperate to get his son to the nearby special needs school and lacking the funds to pay for a custom-built ramp, Jaivaun’s father, Jeuerda, built one himself. There’s only one problem: the ramp is so steep as to make it illegal – and extremely dangerous.
Beginning this week, United Cerebral Palsy of NYC is installing an “attendant-controlled lift” – a kind of outdoor elevator that will take Jaivaun, his wheelchair and a caregiver from street level to the front door – and redesigning the ground-floor bathroom to make it ADA-compliant and wheelchair-accessible (wider doorway, pocket doors, roll-in shower, wall-hung sink, etc.).
The nonprofit will spend roughly $25,000 modifying the Francis home – at the top of the range, but consistent with the cost of alterations involving lifts of any kind. Since the launch of Access to Home in 2005, United Cerebral Palsy of NYC has secured and spent $2,000,000 in grant money to modify almost 150 homes and apartments.
The Francis family can’t wait. They’d been hoping to get the renovations back in 2010, but the funding ran out and the following year it wasn’t renewed.