Unique Wisconsin "B & B" Earns "A"
By Dan Rutz
"A " is for accessibility at this Bed & Breakfast that’s like no other. Although Welcome, H.O.M.E. B & B opens its doors to all, these doors are 36-inches wide to make wheelchair passage a little easier. Once inside the grade-level entrance, there are steps to hear but none to climb, as Ace, the lovable old mongrel joins host Diane Miller greet their guests. Miller, who contracted polio as a child, alternates between crutches and a power wheelchair, but thanks to Welcome, H.O.M.E.’s state-of-the-art innovations, is able to attend to visitors’ needs with ease and efficiency.
Diane oversees spotless guest accommodations and offers a scrumptious array of country breakfast entrees. It is a labor of love amidst a setting she envisioned and, with the help of hundreds of volunteers and sponsors, brought to life.
As Miller sees it, the medium is both message and lifestyle: H.O.M.E. stands for House of wheelchair friendly Modification Examples. Welcome, H.O.M.E. Inc. is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation that very proudly operates entirely via volunteer power. The program has NO paid staff.
Set in southeastern Wisconsin on the border of Ozaukee and Washington Counties, nestled along the Milwaukee River in the quaint Village of Newburg, Welcome, H.O.M.E. Inc. has created a duel-purpose facility. This unique single-family residence serves as both a vacation retreat and a demonstration project for creative wheelchair friendly design examples, big and small.
The Bed and Breakfast is located in one private wing of the L shaped 3,650 sq ft ranch style house. Two spacious guest rooms and two bathrooms (both with whirlpool tubs) sprawl out from an inviting family room complete with willow furniture, gas fireplace, kitchenette, computer, shelves of books and board games for all ages. Microwave some popcorn - even a rainy day is fun here.
The guest wing of the home is surrounded by a covered carport - high enough to accommodate modified vans - a screened porch and a wrap around cedar deck. Listen to the rainbow of birds as they sing. Watch young deer romp in the field as if playing a game of tag. Check the sky for a falling star. Try to count the fire flies...
The inviting “Sara” guest bedroom with its collection of vintage hats sleeps 3 comfortably with a queen size bed and twin fold out. The relaxing JCPenney room, decorated with Audubon bird prints, furnished with a full size bed, a twin waterbed and a futon can sleep 4 ( or 5 if your party includes a couple kids). Both rooms have an abundance of windows, TV with cable) and a VCR, down comforters and lots of pillows to snuggle into.
Surrounding the house is a prairie that gently rolls into a generous stand (15+ acres) of mature hardwoods laced with trails that anyone—on wheels or on foot—can enjoy at their leisure. You’ll find benches and picnic tables along the way. Sit. Listen to the quiet. Cookouts are encouraged. Diane always has marshmallows on hand for you to roast over an evening fire in the raised fire pit.
Looking for other things to do in the area? Welcome. H.O.M.E. is within:
Welcome, H.O.M.E. Bed and Breakfast makes a family get-away possible. This country retreat also gives guests a chance to sample a variety of beds, design ideas and assistive devices. Here, even the bathrooms offer diversity. One features a hinged-door whirlpool tub. Another, the hand painted ocean bathroom, is a "roll-in" shower.
"The goal was to build one house in which to display as many wheelchair accessible features as possible, under one roof," explains Miller.
Over eight years Miller pitched her idea to foundations and companies, an effort that finally paid off when JCPenney awarded her a $7,000 "Golden Rule Award" for volunteerism. Shortly thereafter along came an additional $50,000 check from the JCPenney Company - the CEO had a 15 year old son living with Spina Bifida. Jim wanted to see Welcome, H.O.M.E. become more than a dream.
When it came time to build, private industry came through with a cross section of product lines. Novel innovations of every description abound in both the guest and on-site hostess living quarters. Welcome, H.O.M.E. B & B was two years in construction, opening to the public May 1, 1998.
Although Miller contracted polio at the age of three, she enjoyed many years of near-normal function with the aid of leg braces and crutches, ending around twenty years ago with the emergence of "Post Polio Syndrome." As her symptoms returned and Miller gradually became less mobile, she also grew more determined to show, how simple low-cost design features can make a world of difference to those with special needs. "It takes more than any old ramp to integrate," Miller points out, but not a lot more. A few extra inches in doorways and hallways could ease the frustrations of many, she believes.
Welcome H.O.M.E. B & B proves such features don’t have to cost a lot. Pocket doors that slide along walls, swing clear door hinges, an extra handle or knob here and there are examples of easy, efficient accommodation. The entire home is open for tours, by appointment, free of charge.
Take time to relax. Diane’s morning creations and hospitality disable inhibition and enable a greater appreciation for the wholeness of life, barrier-free.
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