After his initial rehab stay following his spinal cord injury, Riley Poor was ready to go home and start adjusting to his new reality. The only problem was, his home wasn’t ready for him. He didn’t have an accessible place to live, and he couldn’t find temporary accessible housing. Poor, a C5-6 quad, ended up moving into a hotel and living there with caregivers for eight months while he found permanent housing.
It’s a dilemma that is growing more and more common as insurance providers refuse to pay for longer rehab stays, but one that two Vermont architects think they may have solved. After watching what Poor went through, family friends (and husband and wife) Julie Lineberger and Joseph Cincotta teamed up with Poor to conceptualize and then design and build the Wheel Pad: a temporary accessible housing unit on wheels.
“What if there had been an accessible bedroom and bathroom that Riley could have attached to his mom’s house, or his dad’s house, just so he wouldn’t have been isolated while he figured out his plans,” explains Lineberger. “Our theory is that people heal better more quickly when they’re surrounded by people who love them, rather than being isolated in a hotel room.”
The Wheel Pad offers just that — an elegant 220 square foot trailer on wheels with an accessible bedroom (with room for a modest desk) and bathroom that can be easily hooked up to a house or stand alone in a driveway or yard. The Wheel Pad is designed to connect to a home by a back door, a sliding door or even a window. With two extension cords connected to a power source and an insulated hose connected for water, you are all set. The unit has a tank for two months of sewage or can be connected to a sewage line. All of that in a compact size that allows it to be transported without a commercial driver’s license. “We’ve made it the smallest it can be and still be attractive,” says Cincotta. “It’s very easy for any pickup truck to take it where you need to go.”
The design won World Architecture News’ 2016 Small Spaces Award, and Lineberger has won multiple contests and nearly $40,000 for her business plan that centers around the Wheel Pad. She used that money to build the first Wheel Pad and says it will perpetually be on loan to a family in need.
She is confident Wheel Pad is “the quickest, least expensive way to get you back in your home.” At $3,000/month with a six-month lease, or $60,000 to purchase, the Wheel Pad isn’t cheap, but Lineberger says that is still significantly cheaper than paying for a hotel room, like Poor did. Her research showed that the lowest average monthly cost for an accessible room and the associated utilities and costs in the United States was approximately $3,700/month. She has applied for a grant to build three Wheel Pads for veterans and compare the cost of them living there over two years to the cost of them living elsewhere. She has also started pitching the Wheel Pad to insurance companies.
Both she and Cincotta are confident that once insurers and others see the Wheel Pad in use, it will catch on. “I really think the more that this becomes in use, it’s going to save insurance companies money,” says Lineberger.
Poor is excited by the Wheel Pad’s potential and can’t wait to see how it evolves.
“It’s great that it provides a viable option for people to have some privacy while they’re having to completely remodel their home or figure out their plans,” he says. “Obviously, it’s not for everybody, but it’s a great option, and there aren’t many options out there. Hopefully it can expedite the process for some people of getting back to their lives.”
As of press time, Cincotta and Lineberger are still looking for the Wheel Pad’s first resident. They had someone lined up to move in this April, but it fell through at the last moment. If you are interested or want to find out more, visit www.wheelpad.com.