Hey, everybody!! Ever wonder why laws were made to include the disabled or make things accessible for them but yet that is something we are still fighting for? Although we’ve come a long way we still have ways to go. Why? Because things that are supposed to be equal aren’t equal, and this place that is accessible under the law is far from accessible. We barely have accessibility in our schools, housing, and even our jobs. This is extremely frustrating and can be discouraging to anyone especially if you are a disabled individual.
Even though, this issue has been brought to the forefront many times and The Americans with Disabilities Act lay out guidelines to be followed. This problem still exists.
Today I’ll discuss accessible living. In 1975, Mike ‘Hondo’ Pesch broke his neck when he dived into a shallow lake in northern Minnesota. It left him paralyzed. Pesch’s childhood best friend Stephen Wiggins who was in college at the time left school immediately to look after his friend. Pesch spent three weeks in the hospital with his friend Wiggins by his side. Later, he was moved to The Courage Center, a transitional rehabilitation center in Twin Cities, Minnesota. There Wiggins became a resident assistant where every day he saw residents that wanted an alternative to living in an institution. Because each and every person there yearned for their independence and wanted a sense of normalcy; before their injuries they did live active lives. They wanted to live their lives despite their physical disability. This is the dream of many disabled people whether newly injured, have been injured a while, or been disabled since birth.
Stephen Wiggins went back to school where he and his roommate Charles Berg wondered what could be a residential solution for people with disabilities. They wanted to build on an idea that Mike Pesch and other residents at the Courage Center came up with, so they did. The two planned what became known as “The Project”. The Project was an organizational structure for a network of affordable, resident managed homes that would meet the needs of any person with a spinal cord injury, or mobility impairment. They went to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for help and even asked a Twin Cities neurologist to pitch in and he helped them secure financial backing and “The Project” became Accessible Space Inc., a nonprofit organization incorporated just a few weeks before Wiggins and Berg graduated. They received a $1.1 million dollar grant from HUD to build five “barrier-free” homes in the Twin Cities.
Later after several rough patches, Berg off at school, and Wiggins wanting to pursue his MBA decided to ask his friend and Harvard roommate Stephen “Shep” Vander Schaaf to interview for the Executive Director position at ASI. Today, under Vander Schaaf ASI grew enormously it now has 141 homes and apartments in 31 states. As well as, being acknowledged nationally as a model for resident-managed care.
Mike Pesch passed Jan. 6, 1992 a year before the opening of the ASI home that carried his name, Pesch Place.