My Service Project with Rebuilding Together: Reducing Falls At Home

September 21, 2023
by Sebastien Jean, Client Services Coordinator at Rebuilding Together Peninsula

This Falls Prevention Awareness Week, I’m highlighting my AmeriCorps service project which is relevant to this nationwide effort of reducing falls. For my project, I developed a “how to” video on installing and maintaining equipment for people with disabilities and future AmeriCorps members. Thus far, my AmeriCorps term at Rebuilding Together Peninsula has been great. Unfortunately, it has also highlighted the distress many of the neighbors in the Peninsula go through on a daily basis, which I would have never been aware of in my respective field as economist. Research shows that people with limited mobility frequently live in homes with inaccessible features that may prevent them from performing daily activities safely or effectively. Additionally, evidence shows that people with disabilities are more likely to experience injury from falls if there are barriers (i.e., transferring to a tub or shower) (Carnemolla & Bridge, 2019). Preventing these injuries, especially through home modifications, is incredibly important to ensure that individuals can remain in their homes and communities.

The purpose of this video is to not only help homeowners live a more comfortable life with additional equipment installed, but also educate others on how to install equipment for their own personal benefit, like preventing falls in the home. As part of my AmeriCorps terms, I got to work directly with clients through two programs at Rebuilding Together Peninsula. Our first program is called National Rebuilding Day (NRD)--Rebuilding Together Peninsula’s signature annual event, bringing together civic, community and corporate organizations to repair and rebuild homes from Daly City to Sunnyvale. The second is our Safe At Home (SAH) program, in which Rebuilding Together Peninsula year-round does smaller repairs for the basic health and safety for our neighbors. I got the idea for this project from the numerous clients I’ve had the chance of working with throughout my term, and the gratitude they’ve always expressed after receiving these modifications in their homes. The project was made possible with the help of our affiliate’s Occupational Therapist, DeeDee Clarke, and our Senior Technician, Frank Tijerina. All the materials and equipment provided in the video were at no cost to the homeowner, thanks to our local partnerships and programs in the Bay Area.  

The client (wheelchair using individual) in this video, suffered from a thumb, index and hip disability that limited his mobility around his home. After doing a home assessment with our Occupational Therapist and speaking to the homeowner, they concluded to focus on making modifications in the main bathroom due to having the most difficulties in that area. However, we were still able to install a wheelchair-accessible ramp with handrails at his home entrance as well.   

Throughout the video, DeeDee Clarke (OT), not only provides insightful recommendations on product placement to alleviate the impact of the client’s disability based on her professional experience, but also provides information of where to get these products for little to no-cost. After the home assessment, Frank Tijerina (ST), who just about made all these modifications possible, completed his own assessment to make sure the modifications were feasible based on the measurements of the bathroom and other specifications that the average person would not be aware of. As the video pertains to the safety of home modifications, he also made sure to go in detail of how to properly install these products without hurting yourself or the environment. We also prioritized teaching not only the homeowner throughout this process, but also their family members. This is beneficial for their personal knowledge and if any new modifications need to be done down the line. This teaching is critical in generating awareness on what might be a fall risk in the future, so they can take action to prevent injury.   

As we concluded with the modifications, we invited the homeowner to do a final walkthrough for any suggestions and confirm all the product placements were up to par with his daily home routines. This approach emphasizes how safety education and collaborative discussion can initiate a better lifestyle for homeowners and meet their unique needs. 

Nonetheless, it was great to experience how these modifications made such a difference for this family and made it safer for the homeowner to navigate through his home. I am hopeful this video will be a great resource for both homeowners and future AmeriCorps members in understanding how proper home installation and use can effectively prevent falls.

If you are interested in learning more about our AmeriCorps program, please reach out to Stacy Maliff, Senior Manager of AmeriCorps and Capacity Building (