Juvenile Huntington's disease, a neuro­de­ge­ne­ra­tive disease that causes mobility problems, made climbing the stairs in her home more difficult every year for young Judy Krivanek. As she grew older and the stairs grew more daunting, her mother, Alyson, had to carry her up and down more frequently. When Judy became a teenager, carrying her became increasingly difficult for her mother.

Thanks to the Home Builders Foundation (HBF), Alyson no longer has any fear about her 14-year-old daughter climbing the stairs. With the help of H & H Builders, the HBF remodeled the Krivanek house so that Judy's bedroom and bathroom are on the same level and are accessed by a wheelchair ramp.

The roll-in shower in her bathroom helps Judy maintain her independence

John Happel of H & H Builders recognizes the need for knowledgeable people to quickly take care of HBF's projects. He has personal experience with disabled people, and he has received CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist) training from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelors Council.

The NAHB Remodelors Council developed the CAPS program to provide comprehensive information about remodeling homes for older and maturing adults. Home modification for the aging-in place population is the fastest-growing segment of the residential remodeling industry. Aging in place means remaining in one's home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level. CAPS training is useful for remodeling projects involving both aging adults and people with all kinds of disabilities.

"I have read that 40 percent of people end up disabled sometime in life, whether it's temporary or permanent," Happel says. "We volunteer for HBF projects because of the huge need. These families are in desperate straits and can't even use their own home. It reminds you to appreciate what you have because you may be there yourself some day."

The special attention to the needs of elderly and disabled people helped H & H assess how to best adapt Judy's home. Tony Arendas, H & H's superintendent for the project, made suggestions that Judy's mother and her husband, Michael, said they would not have thought of on their own. Rounded corners to accommodate a turning wheelchair, lowered light switches and a dimmer switch by her bed all have made Judy's day-to-day life simpler.

Happel said that attention to detail and adapting a home for individual needs should be standard procedure for any remodeling job. "We talk about these things at all of our company meetings — the details that each house needs. But I really love doing projects for the HBF," he says. "There is such a need for our industry's expertise, and it is really good for your heart."

Beverly Saunders is with Land Title Guarantee Company and is the 2006 president of the Home Builders Foundation. Email Beverly at bsaunders@ltgc.com