Making Calgary RAD

Coleen with her father David


When Coleen was born, her parents didn’t think she’d live. Coleen coded immediately after her birth and didn’t take her first breath  until 20 minutes after she was born. The oxygen deprivation resulted in cerebral palsy and seizures and she now requires near-constant access to an oxygen tank. Coleen is bound to a wheelchair and once her parents were able to start planning for her future, it was clear that their home needed to adapt to their growing daughter’s needs. Getting her in and out of the home, with several steps at the front entrance and a narrow doorway, was a daily struggle. Even rolling around the family room in her wheelchair was difficult with the carpet and uneven transitions. Her parents had limited funding to make the necessary changes and were already exhausted by Coleen’s numerous appointments and medical challenges.

So, in 2015 the family applied for an accessibility renovation through the RAD Renovations program operated by Accessible Housing and was immediately selected to receive home improvements at no cost to them including a wider front sidewalk, wheelchair ramp, wider doorway, smooth new flooring so Coleen can roll around freely, and a bathroom renovation so her parents can bathe her with ease. Finally, Coleen’s parents can start to plan for other opportunities in her future, like attending preschool, now that her home is safe and accessible.

This home has a new front porch which leveled the entrance for the recipient. In addition, the front yard was excavated to allow for a wide, level sidewalk to be poured and a porch lift was installed to allow the resident to access the front door without the use of stairs.

On the other side of Calgary from where Coleen and her family live, is another RAD Renovation Program recipient. Born in Germany with severe arthritis, Edda has been living with disability and pain her whole life. By the time she was 12 years old she had spent 8 years in hospital. She’s had over 30 bone surgeries but always has a positive, fiercely independent spirit. Edda wants to continue to be self-sufficient, insisting on doing her own cooking and maintaining an impeccably tidy home.  Now in her retired years, she leaves her Calgary home less frequently, consolidating her appointments and grocery store trips so that she does not risk further injury or pain by climbing the home’s many stairs and steps. Her friends and family worry about her becoming increasingly secluded.

Through Accessible Housing’s RAD Renovations Program, Edda is currently receiving an accessibility renovation at no cost to her. The renovation includes a complete bathroom modification, a wider but level walkway, an exterior wheelchair lift and a front porch addition. She is looking forward to getting out of the house more easily, exploring her suburban neighbourhood or perhaps even volunteering again.

A great team to get the job done.

From Coleen, our youngest recipient, to Edda in her senior years, Accessible Housing’s RAD Renovations Program is changing the lives of Calgarians of every age, in every quadrant of the city.

Fewer than one percent of homes in Calgary are fully accessible yet an estimated seven percent of Calgarians live with a disability that impairs their mobility; many people with physical disabilities live in unsafe homes full of barriers. People with disabilities often have lower incomes, making it hard to finance costly renovations. Even if individuals can afford home modifications, Calgary lacks knowledgeable accessible design and renovation services. As a result, individuals are at a serious risk of community isolation, physical injury, and homelessness.

Addressing the barriers faced by previous RAD Renovations clients, the program now offers a wrap-around design, funding and construction service, with each client receiving the following: a home assessment, a design and construction package, advocacy, full assistance applying for the Residential Access Modification Program (RAMP) funding from the Alberta Government, facilitation of other funding assistance as required, construction management, support throughout the process, and yearly maintenance of exterior ramps. RAD Renovations operates as the central locus for each project by creating a relationship with each client, performing all design and advocacy work, and connecting all the people and components needed for each project to be successfully completed.

Trade partnerships are critical to the success of the RAD Renos program

Acting as facilitator requires flexibility as each client is unique, and may involve bringing in any of the following: social workers, trades, builders, building material suppliers, landscapers, occupational therapists, Alberta Health Services, the Government of Alberta, other non-profits, volunteers and the City of Calgary. In particular, several generous locally-owned trades and construction companies including Ryan Murphy Construction, Professional Excavators and PCL Construction have stepped forward to help make this program both sustainable and impactful.

RAD Renovations re-imagined success through shifting the program’s focus from designing in isolation to designing as part of a collaborative community. By creating a community of support, RAD Renovations is ensuring that Calgarians with mobility challenges are able to live safely in their homes, access community, and thrive.

A home with a new sidewalk, ramp and wider doorway. Additional renovations will be completed inside during the winter.