- Associated Press - Sunday, June 29, 2014

MONROE, Mich. (AP) - Since James Copi became paralyzed last August after an accident at work, he’s been working toward the day when he could return home and live without assistance.

But for Copi and others in his situation, returning home can present its own challenges. He must use a wheelchair and is considered quadriplegic, though he has some control of his right arm and leg. If it weren’t for Community Renovations making his home handicapped accessible, Copi may have had to stay in an assisted living residence in Toledo, according to the Monroe News ( https://bit.ly/1vSnbeC ).

“This will help me do stuff by myself so I don’t have to have someone here all the time,” said Copi, who lives in a bungalow.

Copi’s workers compensation case manager put him in touch with Eric Carbajo of Community Renovations, which began construction on his house in February.

Making Copi’s home of 26 years more accessible consisted of adding a wheelchair ramp to the front door, tearing down a breezeway and garage for a multipurpose room, bedroom and bigger garage, raising some floors and converting a bedroom to a bathroom.

“When we do modifications, if you didn’t see the house before, you wouldn’t know we changed it,” Carbajo said, who added that the company based in Grosse Ile also placed new siding and roofing.

Copi’s new garage is 20 by 27 feet with a 9-foot door to accommodate a handicapped-accessible van. To enter his home that stands roughly 3 feet higher, he uses a 42-by-62inch-long lift that has to be installed by a licensed elevator installer, Carbajo said.

“You need to have more room for space,” he said.

The doorways in Copi’s home have been extended to 36 inches to accommodate his wheelchair. Once he’s in the back of his home, Copi sits in a multipurpose room that’s part of the new addition.

It will become Copi’s new workspace and the granite countertops will host his computer when he moves more of his belongings in.

Carbajo said Community Renovations meets with clients to pick out what material and features they want in their home.

“We don’t just make it maneuverable, we make it appealing so it feels like home,” he said.

Also housed in the new addition is Copi’s new 12-by-14 foot bedroom, that features a remote control mini split, which is a heater and an air conditioner.

The north wall of his bedroom was knocked down to make a doorway into his new bathroom, which used to function as a computer room.

A shower sits in the corner and has no lip to maneuver over. The tile slopes downward slightly toward the drain. It’s 6 by 6 feet and features grab bars and a shower wand. Two curtains can be drawn around the two open sides for privacy. The sink counter is also 3 inches lower to accommodate his chair and sloped inward.

“The bathroom is nice because I won’t have to fit in a little one,” said Copi, although he hasn’t been able to use it yet.

Heading back through the bedroom and multipurpose room lies the original kitchen where the countertops were shortened from 36 inches to 33 and the floor was raised slightly. The front foyer also was raised by 8 inches and leads to a 40-foot wheelchair ramp that allows for a 5-foot turning radius and wraps around the east side of the house toward the driveway.

Copi said his grandchildren particularly like to race their scooters up and down the ramp and try and get him to join in.

“They say, ‘Let’s see how fast you can go,’ ” he said, adding that his wheelchair can top 25 mph.

Copi’s home cost roughly $200,000 to renovate, according to building permits, but renovation costs have a wide range depending the person’s need, Carbajo said.

“You got to make sure (the client) is safe,” he said. “You can’t just go with the cheapest bid; you have to go with the logical solution.”

Carbajo recommended that people considering handicapped-accessible renovations do their research first and make sure they deal with businesses that are certified age-in-place specialists, which means they are experienced in these renovations compared to an ordinary contractor.

Some cases are covered by insurance, while others may have to come out of pocket, he said.

After seeing the changes to his house, Copi is excited to return home in a few weeks to his son, Chris, and dog, Elvis.

“This is more than what I expected,” he said. “I can get around real good.”


Information from: Monroe News, https://www.monroenews.com

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