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Home Usability for People with Disabilities Research Project
Margo Waters: Partner Success Story


Partners in Research

Photo of research participant and partner, Margo Waters.

The Research & Training Center on Community Living is grateful to the many staff members from centers for independent living and other community-based organizations and the consumers who partner on our research to enhance community living. Here is one partner’s story.

Partner Success Story: Margo Waters

“Being able to get out of the home and into the community is an important piece in being independent and living in the community. A lot of our consumers who participated in the home usability study were able to move on, to spend less time sitting in the house and more time getting out into the community.”

- Margo Waters, Lead Independent Living Specialist/Housing Advocate, disABILITY LINK, Tucker, Georgia

Research in Action

City buses are usually accessible, but what if the bus stop isn’t? Margo Waters, Lead Independent Living Specialist and Housing Advocate at disABILITY LINK in Tucker, Georgia, helped one of her consumers solve this problem by taking part in a research project titled "Home Usability for People with Disabilities."

“Home is the starting point for community participation,” said Craig Ravesloot, PhD, the project’s director, “but when people have usability problems in their bathroom, kitchen or even outside their home, the energy they spend on overcoming these problems can reduce the amount of time and energy they have for other kinds of activities.”

Along with Waters, staff members from centers for independent living (CILs) in Fresno, California, and Indianapolis, Indiana, partnered with researchers Ravesloot and Lillie Greiman, MA, to create the materials and processes for establishing a Home Usability Network at their centers. CILs create a HUN by identifying people and resources in the community that can help improve home usability.

“It was very positive to work closely with the research team to develop this intervention. The research team did listen to us and invite us to the table. They did nothing about us without us,” said Waters.

Throughout the implementation of the project, Waters and her fellow advocates saw a slew of positive results in people’s daily lives. Most came from small changes, like installing a toilet seat with handles in an apartment where the management might not allow installation of permanent grab bars or a raised toilet.

Issues outside one’s home also affect participation. When one of Water’s consumers said that she couldn’t make it to the nearby bus stop in her wheelchair because the sidewalk ended abruptly and there were no curb cuts, they put the Home Usability Network into motion. Waters, the consumer and other staff at disABILITY Link advocated with the city. A short time later, the city installed curb cuts on both sides of the street and extended the sidewalk to the bus stop.

A photo on the left labeled “Before” that shows the former sidewalk ending abruptly, leaving only a path of grass to the end of the corner where the bus stop is.      The photo on the right is the “After” and shows a full sidewalk.

Before                                                                 After

“This woman’s issue wasn't really about her home itself, but she didn't have access to the community from her home,” said Waters. “She's a big advocate in the community and so being able to get out and get back home safely was very important. And in the end, it didn't just help her. It helped the whole neighborhood."

“I think the Home Usability Network is something that truly can help people with disabilities improve their community participation,” Waters added. “I appreciate everything that the study brought to our center, and the consumers that did benefit from it are extremely happy.”

For more information:

Craig Ravesloot, PhD
Lillie Greiman, MA
RTC: Disability in Rural Communities
The University of Montana


The contents of this document were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RT5015). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These contents do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.


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Community Living Summit Materials

The RTC on Community Living held its Community Living Summit on Sept. 20, 2016 in Alexandria, VA, where our community research partners presented their success stories.

To learn more about the findings of each research project, please visit the Community Living Summit page. Fact sheets, presentation PowerPoints and other materials from the Summit are available.   


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