Paying it Forward

Living at home with a disability can be quite challenging.  Many people with low income struggle because they can not afford to make their homes safer and more accessible.  As a result, they live day to day as best as they can and try to manage with their current situation.  In an effort to help out individuals with physical disabilities and/ or seniors in the community, a non-for-profit organization named Rebuilding Together was started.  This organization believes that “everyone deserves to live in a safe and healthy home” (  Hence their mission is to assist low income home owners with home repairs, accessibility modifications, and energy efficient upgrades.  These modifications are done at no cost to the home owner since they work alongside volunteers and are helped by various corporate partners.  Rebuilding Together has been helping low income homeowners for over 30 years and has grown exponentially operating over 200 independent sites throughout the United States. 

 As part of a “paying it forward” effort, Adapting Spaces, decided to partner up with Rebuilding Together NYC to help out with a home accessibility project.  This project lead by Rebuilding Together, needed skilled experts in the field to volunteer their services to perform home assessments in order to determine the needs of their clients.  Therefore, Adapting Spaces decided to help by performing these assessments.  While working on this project, I had the opportunity to work with two families that were in need of home repairs and accessibility modifications.  One of the families shared their story with me and it really touched my heart.  I was deeply saddened to hear of their hardships.  This family had to face the daunting challenge of seeing their disabled family member confined to one room for over a year.  He had no way of accessing the other rooms in the house or the outside world because he could not walk.  While there, I also found out that this adolescent suffering from physical impairments, had a broken wheelchair and was not receiving any therapy services at home.  As a therapist, this was disconcerting and I was compelled to help out this family beyond performing the home assessment.  After leaving their home, I wrote a detailed report to Rebuilding Together with specific recommendations for accessibility modifications.  I also contacted another organization, with the family’s permission, to work on getting a new wheelchair and therapy services for the adolescent.  The family was very appreciative of my efforts in assisting them beyond the Rebuilding Together process.  Now, the adolescent has a new wheelchair and is receiving therapy at home.  He is starting to walk and is participating in various activities of daily living with the help of occupational and physical therapy.      

As an Occupational Therapist, I have the opportunity to work with and help many people suffering from various conditions.  I believe that it is important to help out those that are in need.  This experience has been personally and professionally rewarding in that it has made me more conscious of the fact that it only takes one good deed to effect a greater change in someone’s life.  I wanted to “pay it forward” by volunteering my services to Rebuilding Together’s cause.  In doing that, I was able to help out and make a huge difference in the life of this adolescent.  Being able to “pay it forward” has made my contribution that much more meaningful and purposeful.  “Pay it forward”, you never know whose life you can change.

By: Esther Gonzalez M.S. OTR/L Bil TSHH

Adapting Spaces, LLC


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