Architecture students give disabled family home makeover

Architecture students at the University of Tennessee put their skills to the test as they remodeled the home of a family with disabilities in Knoxville to improve their quality of life and mobility around their home.

This project was led by UT’s Freedom by Design team, a student service organization part of the American Institute of Architecture Students.

These students began drafting plans to give wheelchair access to the home in January. After several months of planning, they began construction on May 1.

According to Melissa Dooley, treasurer for UT’s Freedom by Design, the project will provide a new deck and wheelchair accessible gardens for the Skeen family, which suffers from several medical conditions.

I believe this project is a good thing for students to be involved in because not only is it valuable design and construction experience, but it is also a great way to contribute to the community. – Melissa Dooley, treasurer for UT’s Freedom by Design

Wanda Skeen and her daughter, Stacy, both have disabilities. Wanda has had cancer, a stroke and an open-heart surgery while Stacy has suffered brain damage.

“We have designed an accessible pathway that leads from the driveway up to the back door. The design includes a covered back deck at the entrance and a deck that wraps around to the side of the house. There will be a bench and two planters made of railroad ties for gardening from a wheelchair,” Dooley said.

Dooley said Freedom by Design gives architecture students a chance to apply what they have learned in school and use it to help those who really need it.

“I enjoy working with Freedom by Design because it has a real-world impact and helps those who are disabled experience architecture in a positive and safe way through careful and thoughtful design strategies,” Dooley said. “I aspire to use this concern for the disabled in my professional work in the future. I believe this project is a good thing for students to be involved in because not only is it valuable design and construction experience, but it is also a great way to contribute to the community.”

Funds for the project were raised through an AIAS fundraiser last fall, and many East Tennessee businesses donated money and resources for the renovations. These include Tennessee Stone, Sequatchie Concrete, Acadia Landscape, JRC Company and GEOConex.

The project was estimated to be completed by Wednesday, May 22.