Handicapped people build home for paraplegic: Habitat-led project

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 2 Jun 1999 23:32:25 -0700 (PDT)


     JAY REEVES, Associated Press Writer

     Sunday, May 30, 1999

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Chris Wright's new home won't only be
handicapped-accessible, it will be handicapped-built.

People who are blind, deaf, mute and mentally impaired will join others in
wheelchairs, on crutches and with debilitating diseases this week to build
a house for Wright, a paraplegic.

The house is a project of Habitat for Humanity, the Georgia-based
organization that builds low-cost homes for the needy. Partners in the work
include Ability magazine and BellSouth, which aided in the design.

Sponsors say the project is the first time handicapped people have built a
home for a handicapped person.

``I'm just overjoyed. I thank God,'' said Wright, 37, paralyzed from the
waist down because of transverse myelitis, a neurological disease.

Most of the workers will arrive at the job site in west Birmingham on
Monday. Demetrius Jackson got an early start last week laying the footings
and concrete-block foundation for the three-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot home.

``The blind will be painting. There's a one-legged guy who's supposed to be
doing the plumbing work,'' said Jackson, a former professional football
player who was disabled by a stroke in 1997.

Wright was a robust painter when his right foot began going numb in the
summer of 1991. The numbness spread, and by September of that year he
couldn't walk.

Wright currently lives with an older sister and his mother, a dialysis
patient he cares for. The old house has wide doorways, making it easier for
him to maneuver his wheelchair, but it lacks other features that make life
easier for the handicapped.

Counters in the new house will be designed so a wheelchair can fit under
them. Wright's wheelchair will fit in the shower, and the carpet will be
short so tires will roll easier. There will be an intercom system and a
carport for Wright's van, which he drives with hand controls.

Wright already has built up ``sweat equity'' in the home by helping
assemble the walls, which will be trucked to the site and erected by others
in wheelchairs.

Wright, who receives disability benefits, will purchase the home for
$40,000 using an interest-free loan from Habitat.

Wright could be living in the house in a matter of days. Later this year,
he plans to marry fiance Diana Hopkins and move her in, too.

``We wanted to get married last year, but we didn't have anywhere to
live,'' he said.


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