By Angela Deines, August 22, 2016
Janice Watkins, left, executive director of Topeka Habitat for Humanity,
stands with Ami Hyten, center, executive director of Topeka
Independent Living Resource Center and Danny Jones, construction
manager for Topeka Habitat Monday as the two Topeka nonprofit
agencies held a ribbon-cutting to unveil an accessibility home
modifications section in the Habitat ReStore home improvement
facility, 121 N.E. Gordon, for people with disabilities or limited
mobility. (Photo by Angela Deines/Special to The Capital-Journal)
A partnership between two Topeka nonprofit organizations is likely to become a national model for making homes accessible for people with disabilities.
“We are offering an accessibility modification section in our ReStore which is the first ReStore in the country to do that,” said Janice Watkins, executive director of Topeka Habitat for Humanity. “They (national Habitat) have affirmed their commitment to third world countries and the aging population but I think the physically disabled population has been overlooked by Habitat for a while.”
Representatives of Topeka Habitat for Humanity and TILRC unveiled a new home modification section in Habitat’s ReStore in the NOTO arts district on Monday. TILRC will help stock the section with things like stair lifts, porch lifts, shower systems and grab bars in the northwest corner of the ReStore facility at 121 N.E. Gordon St.
Ami Hyten, executive director of TILRC, said the partnership in Topeka is serving as a pilot for work that has started on the national level with the disabled community and Habitat for Humanity.
“We actually had our finger on the pulse of what Habitats were doing around the country,” she said. “We knew that nationally speaking, they (Habitat) were progressive and that these issues were on their radar. This really is a one-of-a-kind, unique opportunity in large part because the leadership at (Topeka) Habitat here was really open to making those kinds of changes.”
Evan Korynta, operations manager for TILRC, said accessibility equipment is only partially paid for under Medicaid or Social Security disability. He said the equipment found at the Topeka Habitat ReStore can go a long way in modifying homes for people on limited budgets.
“You can see these modifications that can be done to the home that are cheaper than brand new construction. It could save someone on a fixed income a ton of money,” Korynta said. “It’s a nice option for anybody looking for access whether it’s somebody who’s in a wheelchair like myself or even someone who’s elderly who’s thinking ahead into the future.”
Korynta said TILRC staff can help advise those who need the accessible equipment to make sure it is right for their home.
Danny Jones, construction manager for Topeka Habitat, said the equipment offered in the new accessible home modifications section has been tested to make sure it works and is safe. He said the new ReStore facility allows for the section to serve more people in the community.
“We have more space, we have more supplies to sell,” Jones said. “We’re much more diversified than we were. We have more space so that lets us put more things on the floor. It’s exciting.”