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July 13, 2014

Family tragedy opened one woman’s eyes to the need of the disabled

NORMAN — Jean Bayles had a dream. The dream was to provide a fully accessible home for rent in Norman. Her brother, Terry Abbott, was injured when he was 15 and has been a quadriplegic since.

Persons with disabilities have all of the same problems and life struggles everyone else has, with the added challenge of dealing with accessibility and other issues related to having a disability, Bayles said.

When a corner lot on Lahoma Street and Acres Avenue became available after a fire destroyed the structure there, Bayles and her husband Jim decided to build a fully accessible home. Now in his 70s, Abbott has a family and has made it through, but Bayles saw how he has struggled.

“He’s an inspiration,” she said. “He was my first visitor when I finished. He got really tearful when he came (to see the new house). We came to Norman 50 years ago and we couldn’t find a home that was accessible.”

Bayles and her family believe the rental property will fill a void in the market, but the project wasn’t about making money.

The 1,450 square foot home has a roomy garage to allow for greater ease of loading and unloading wheelchairs. The doors are all low threshold entries for greater ease and the floors are vinyl plank for ease of movement and care, but look like hardwood.

Outdoor living spaces, including the front porch and back patio are accessible.

Bayles said they tried to follow ADA suggestions when building the home. The kitchen appliances are wheelchair height and the cabinets and counters have toe kicks. The sink basins in the kitchen and bathrooms are shallow, and the taps have single handle controls.

One of the most remarkable features is the range top which Bayles’ son Todd engineered to be lowered to wheelchair height or raised to accommodate various heights of cooks.

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