What happens when a loved one’s life is forever changed by a disabling accident? That’s the question couple Julie Lineberger and Joseph Cincotta were faced with when their god son became tetraplegic following a terrible accident. Out of an immediate need, Wheel Pad L3C was created to empower differently-abled individuals seeking a truly accessible home. Since winning second place in the 2015 InnovateHER challenge and partnering with Norwich University, the Military College of Vermont’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Wheel Pad has helped numerous customers regain their independence.
For those with limited mobility, stairs, narrow hallways, and out of reach appliances can make homes anything but welcoming. To rectify this, Wheel Pad is designed with an integrated accessibility approach throughout the entire home. Wheel Pad’s pioneering Norwich model, named for the team of Norwich University architecture, civil engineering and construction management students and professionals who helped build the model, is equipped with a Hoyer lift, mid-level mechanicals (on/off switches, power outlets, etc.), acrylic bathroom grabs, and doors that swing in both directions, all to make moving around the mobile home smoother.
“Often after rehab, an individual moves into a hotel, makes minor adaptations to a current rental or owned unit, or if extremely lucky, finds accessible housing,” says Julie Lineberger. “Wheel Pad enables people to stay with friends and/or family without completely disrupting another’s home as an individual learns to live in a new way and arranges for permanent accessible housing.”
Back in the late 1980’s, Lineberger and husband, Joseph Cincotta founded LineSync Architecture, a Vermont-based green architecture firm that incorporates sustainable building and energy-efficient practices. Cincotta serves as LineSync’s Principal Architect and led the construction of the Norwich model. LineSync Architecture is also a certified member of the Green Business Network.
The 200 square foot Wheel Pad home includes one bedroom, one bathroom and living space, is made with non-toxic materials, and incorporates eco-friendly features like daylighting. Like a mobile home, Wheel Pad is designed with insulated electricity and plumbing capabilities and can remain on wheels for transportation purposes. Customers have the option to attach Wheel Pad to an existing home with the aid of a connector, or keep the mobile home separate but accessible with a ramp. Since there are benefits to healing at home, having these options is a game changer for both individuals and caretakers. The Norwich model was also vetted by physicians, nurses, home healthcare providers, and differently abled persons to ensure that Wheel Pad will work for those with wheelchairs and mobile limitations.
Wheel Pad customer Cynthia Payne-Meyer spoke of the home’s ability to meet the unique needs of different people. “One of the best things about the Wheel Pad is actually that it’s not going to work the same for everybody. I just think it’s so versatile that people can make it work for them in all different kinds of ways,” says Wheel Pad customer.
Today, injured service members and veterans, injured sports enthusiasts and accident survivors and their loved ones are Wheel Pad’s most common customers. The leasing price for Wheel Pad is approximately $3,000 per month, which beats the average monthly cost of other housing options like nursing and assisted living homes. Currently, two credit unions—Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU) and Credit One both provide finance programs to help customers pay for Wheel Pad.
“For an individual, Wheel Pad value is dignity, partial independence and quality of life while gaining full independence. For family and caregivers, Wheel Pad value is the ability to be near and able to care for the individual. Wheel Pad sets the stage for reasonable demands on family/friend caregiver time and abilities,” says Lineberger.
Lineberger says the possibilities of where Wheel Pad homes can pop up depends on local zoning and adequate space. The Wheel Pad contract asks for a $2,000 retainer to explore siting and local regulations which is reimbursed to the customer if their home location isn’t a good fit. Currently,a larger version of the Norwich model—Wheel Pad XL is in the works and will include the same features of the Norwich model but will be able to fit a Queen size bed. The company is also joining the tiny house movement and developing Wheel Pad Tiny Home–an independent, accessible home set to premiere in 2020.