What Is a Home Usability Network?

The home usability network (HUN) is a coalition of consumers, Center for Independent Living (CIL) staff, and community providers or professionals vested in helping people solve usability problems. This coalition works toward the goal of creating or modifying the home environment to best meet the needs and desires of local consumers.

The network is comprised of a diverse group of community organizations (such as a local Fair Housing Organization, state assistive technology program, or aging services program), and other professionals (such as contractors, occupational therapists, or business people) that are identified by CIL staff and consumer advocates.

The diagram below illustrates this process. First, home usability needs are identified by the consumer. The other section of this website, Self Advocacy for Home Usability, is a consumer focused guide to addressing home usability issues. If/when a consumer contacts you about a home usability issue you can direct them to this section first and then help work through any issues identified.

The CIL staff person can work closely with the consumer to prioritize the home usability issue they want to focus on using the Home Usability Plan (more about the Home Usability Plan can be found in the implement section). The consumer and CIL staff person then work towards a home usability solution, bringing on members of the Home Usability Network as needed to brainstorm solutions and/or provide skills, labor, financial support, and expert advice.

HUN Process Diagram showing home usability problems going into a funnel along with Home Usability Network Members, the CIL staff, and the consumer. These mix together in the funnel and produce home usability solutions.

 

Examples

There are as many different types of usability issues as there are people. Identifying usability problems and solutions to these problems is a collaborative process between the consumer, the CIL specialist and usability network members. Within this consumer-directed process the consumer works closely with the CIL staff facilitator and members of the Home Usability Network to identify, prioritize and address the usability issues within their home.

Usability issues can be wide and varied in nature. They can involve making physical modifications to someone’s home—from those that are very technical and difficult in nature to others that are quite simple and inexpensive. Some problems may involve policy issues or negotiating with the landlord or a Homeowners’ Association. Still others may revolve around assistive technology needs or managing personal care assistant services. Finding solutions to these varied problems will depend on the ingenuity and creativity of the consumer, CIL staff, and community partners in the Housing Usability Network.

Some examples of usability problems and potential solutions include:

  1. The consumer has difficulty maneuvering through her home
    • Solution—During the in-home visit the facilitator and consumer might identify that much of the problem has to do with furniture placement and clutter around the home. The consumer gets friends and family to help organize a garage sale as a first step to cutting the clutter and increasing space inside the home.
  2. The consumer is not physically able to open the drapes.
    • Solution—Consumer, facilitator and contractor meet with several vendors the contractor knows and find an electronic, remote-controlled drape opener that is donated and installed.
  3. The consumer has difficulty entering their home.
    • Solution— The consumer and CIL specialist may determine that a ramp needs to be installed to address the problem. The consumer, facilitator and carpenter meet to decide the best plan for the ramp, discuss with owner/Homeowners’ Association for approval, obtain any building permits needed, and complete the job.

As you can see from these examples, the idea of usability is broad. While it sometimes includes issues of accessibility, such as the access ramp, it often goes beyond accessibility codes and fair housing regulations. Because usability issues and solutions can be so diverse, it is important that members of a Home Usability Network be diverse as well.

The Home Usability Network

The Home Usability Network is a coalition of local service providers, housing experts, tradespeople, volunteers who are vested in working to help solve home usability issues in the community. Different coalition members have different areas of expertise and experience and will have different things to offer consumers with usability issues. Not every member will be needed for every issue. Rather, coalition members can be accessed by the consumer or the CIL to provide support when needed. While not everyone will be needed for every usability issue you encounter, you will want to keep network members involved through regular email updates and phone calls to maintain the relationship. There will be more information on who makes up a home usability network, how to recruit members, and how to maintain network relationships in Create.

Light BulbHINT! It’s important to note that the Home Usability Network is not meant to replace, diminish, or get in the way of work done by groups like Legal Services or Fair Housing Organizations. Hopefully these groups will be part of your HUN and will help avoid conflict. If a certain group is not in your HUN and it becomes apparent that they are already involved in solving a problem, the consumer and/or facilitator should contact the other organization to coordinate efforts when appropriate.

Resource: Hints and Tips for Coalition Building (PDF) (Word)

 

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