The Rotary Cheshire Homes (RCH) is the only communication-adapted, barrier-free apartment complex in North America designed and built specifically for people who are deaf-blind. Opened in 1992 and now home to 16 tenants, it was developed by the The Rotary Club of Toronto – Don Valley in partnership with the CFPDP. Initial funding came from the Foundation via the very first Great Valentine Gala in 1985. Current funding is from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Aside from housing, RCH provides crucial Intervenor Services. An Intervenor is a paid professional skilled in the various communication methods used by persons who are deaf-blind. The services allow tenants to do everyday things that sighted and hearing people do – go to the store, go to the bank, use the internet, take a class, cook, go for a walk and so on. On average, the tenants, who range in age from 31 to 91, each receive 3.5 hours a day of intervenor services.
Day-to-day life in a secure building ~ most deaf-blind people are not profoundly (i.e. 100%) deaf-blind only having a small amount of hearing and/or sight. At RCH, tenants can watch TV, read Braille, listen to music – it varies from person to person, depending on their disability. What’s most important, is that they can do these things in comfort and safety. Result ~ Tenants are happier, healthier and above all, safer – and that’s the bottom line. Staff are available 24 hours a day, each tenant has a vibrating pager and everybody in the building, including staff, can communicate easily.
The building itself includes several design features to assist tenants such as raised, tactile surfaces, controlled lighting, braille and largeprint signage and a network of vibrating, flashing and amplified signalling devices. The signalling system alerts residents to emergencies. Unit door bells and a special lobby entrance system employing tactile and visual phone equipment, ensures secure access to the building. Tenants also have telephones with braille or large-print displays and a choice of signalling devices for their own apartments.
Designed for the Deaf-Blind
The design of RCH fell to Rotarian architect Juergen Rust, who chose to make himself deaf and blind for 24 hours to understand the many barriers faced by the deaf-blind. The shovel went into the ground in August of 1991 on Willowdale Avenue in North York. Construction was completed on April 30, 1992. The first tenant moved in the very next day and the complex was full by September. The rest, as they say, is history.
For more information about Rotary Cheshire Homes, please visit:
Rotary Cheshire Homes
Jennifer Robbins, Executive Director
101-422 Willowdale Avenue
Willowdale, ON M2N 5B1