BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Rebuilding Together NYC, an organization that promotes safety in homes and offers free critical home repairs to people in need, were joined last week by Lloyd’s America in Jamaica to renovate a house in need of critical repairs and accessibility modifications.
While the organization is currently working on approximately 10 homes in South Jamaica, some of which were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, Ida Mae Williams, who became wheelchair bound in January, has a different set of needs.
In December 2016, Akima Brown, Williams’ granddaughter, filled out an application for Rebuilding Together NYC’s Access Upgrades program, which addresses Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerns.
Since January, Williams has had difficulty making it up the stairs of her two-story home, which is required for her to take a shower. Since the bathroom on the first floor is only a half-bathroom, Williams would have to be sponge-bathed or wait for her son, Darrell Williams, or a home health aide to help her make it up the stairs.
With the help of Rebuilding Together NYC, an ADA contractor gutted the small bathroom, removed the narrow door and replaced it with a wider one, so Williams could get in with her wheelchair. The contractor also added a shower with grab-bars and a shower chair.
“It’s very helpful,” said Williams. “I can get in the bathroom now and can sort of take a shower, which is something I wasn’t able to do before because I can’t get up the steps. Renovating the small bathroom down here makes my life a lot easier.”
In addition to the bathroom modifications, a ramp was added from the porch to the backyard and driveway since Williams was unable to go up or down her front steps.
Williams’ basement, which is used for laundry and storage, previously had work completed that involved the insertion of oriented strand board (OSB) walls, which released chemicals that caused Williams to have respiratory problems.
According to Rebuilding Together Executive Director and contractor Terry Scott, the team is replacing the walls with standard dry wall and taking care of all issues to ensure that the basement doesn’t pose a threat to Williams’ health.
The overall project has been going on since April 29—which is known as National Rebuilding Day—and is projected to be completed in approximately four weeks.
“It’d be different if a team of experienced contractors came in, then we could get the house done in about a week, but these are all volunteers with no experience and who work busy schedules,” said Scott.
Since Rebuilding Together’s volunteers rotate from day to day, Scott said that it is difficult to coordinate the days when they have time off with the times when Williams is at home.
Williams has been living in the home for 46 years and said that she raised her children and watched them raise her grandchildren at the property.