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Durable Accommodations: A Story of Accessibility, Struggles, & Love

This article is about Joaquin Carson, a 53-year-old autistic man, and his family, and a life-challenging access need. I am his sister Diana Pastora Carson, writing with his permission to share this story.

11 years ago, our family won a 3-year court battle and was able to bring my brother home from 15 years of institutionalization. Joaquin continues to heal from the physical and emotional wounds inflicted on him during his many years of segregation and dehumanization.

Our family and team have worked hard to make his community living a great success. And the first thing we had to do was create an environment that would ensure such success. So my husband and I bought a home in Jamul, a rural area on the outskirts of San Diego County. The home is on 8 acres, and has a barn. My parents dipped into their retirement savings and converted the barn into an apartment for Joaquin. But it wasn’t just any apartment.

Because Joaquin has complex behavior support needs, his home needs to be durable. So his custom-home and its contents are indestructible and easily sanitizable.

This means that there are no pictures hanging from the walls. There are murals painted on the walls instead. Appliances and cabinets are bolted down securely. Furnishings are durable and easily cleanable. Windows are shatterproof. His shower is designed without doors or curtains, but a half-wall instead. His bed is bolted to the floor and he has a wall cushion for a headboard to protect his head if he bangs it, which he does when he isn’t feeling well. We thought about Joaquin’s specific needs and designed his home to meet them. We describe his home as “Joaquinified.” But really, the bulk of the design revolves around durability.

This durable environment has worked out well for Joaquin. During our 3-year court battle, we were told that my brother could not be included in the community because he was a “danger to himself and others.” But we knew that if we provided access to the right environments and the right supports, he could be safe and successful in the community, and have a much better life quality.

Eleven years later, we’ve proven that to be true.

Read the rest of the story in ABILITY Magazine here...

A tall handsome Latino man wearing a beanie and a backpack walks along dirt road with a huge smile on his face. His sister walks with their dogs in the background.
Joaquin on his country road

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