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  • Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

    "We never thought I'd get out of the hospital after I was injured" in a 1997 wreck, says Sara Granda, a lawyer for the state.

  • Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Sara Granda and her nurse, Kassy Seney use the ADA wheelchair ramp at her new home. The Sac State Department of Construction Management has helped make Sara Granda's dream of homeownership a reality: By retrofitting her first home in Davis with ramps and wide French doors. Granda, now 33, was paralyzed from the neck down in a car crash when she was 17. Thursday, May 16, 2013.

  • Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Sara Granda looks around what will be her bedroom in her new home in Davis which is currently a work in progress. Granda hopes to move in next week but has a lot of work ahead of her. The Sac State Department of Construction Management has helped by retrofitting her home with ramps and wide French doors. Granda had a friend tear out the wall between two bedrooms and widen the entrance for her bedroom. Granda, now 33, was paralyzed from the neck down in a car crash when she was 17. Thursday, May 16, 2013.

  • Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Sara Granda and her nurse, Kassy Seney check out the back deck at her new home in Davis through the french doors, all built by The Sac State Department of Construction Management. They also put in three ADA wheelchair ramps and more than 100 feet of walkways and ramp landings. Granda, now 33, was paralyzed from the neck down in a car crash when she was 17. Thursday, May 16, 2013.

Sacramento State volunteers help make paralyzed woman's Davis house wheelchair accessible

Published: Thursday, May. 16, 2013 - 4:38 pm
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 19, 2013 - 9:40 am

A few years ago, disability rights advocate Sara Granda approached city officials in Davis with the idea of creating a grant program to help the town's disabled and elderly residents modify their houses to allow wheelchair accessibility.

As she worked on the idea, Granda said, "They said to me, 'You should think of living on your own, too.' "

It was the beginning of a new chapter for the 33-year-old lawyer left paralyzed from the neck down in a rollover accident at age 17 in 1997, a few months before she was supposed to start college.

For more than a decade, she lived in low-income apartments in Davis, the town where she was raised, the daughter of a registered nurse and Sacramento State mechanical engineering professor who are now divorced.

But today she owns a 940-square-foot residence on a quiet cul-de-sac in east Davis. As someone who has overcome many obstacles as a result of her disability, including financial indigence, she considers homeownership another significant achievement.

"We never thought I'd get out of the hospital after I was injured," said Granda, who works for the state Department of Health Care Services. "Those first three to five years, we didn't know what would happen if I lived, if I'd have any quality of life at all.

"If anybody had told me then that I'd do what I'm doing now, I wouldn't have believed them."

Although she closed on the house last fall - scraping together a down payment for the $260,000 deal, refusing to have her parents co-sign the loan - she still hasn't moved in. The process of adapting the house to accommodate her wheelchair has taken longer than she expected.

As Granda said: "It's a work in progress."

Inside the small 1970s ranch house, the bedrooms were gutted when Granda had friends knock out a wall, and floors and walls still need repair. Even more crucially, the bathroom needs to be made wheelchair accessible.

But a volunteer team from Sacramento State's construction management department already has tackled extensive modifications to the home's exterior.

Mikael Anderson, the department chair, took on Granda's house as a community service project for student volunteers this March.

When he learned about Granda, he said: "I dropped all the other, smaller projects we had and said, 'This is what we're going to do.' Sara is somebody with a true need.

"She couldn't get into the house."

Working on weekends, he and five students constructed two large decks out of recycled, weather-resistent deck material. They moved sprinklers and poured more than 100 square feet of widened concrete walkways. They added three wheelchair ramps - and they replaced the sliding glass door onto the back deck with wider french doors.

It will take a general contractor to remodel the bathroom, he said.

"Most people after an accident like the one Sara had wouldn't be able to accomplish the great things she has," said Anderson. "It's inspirational. This is the most rewarding project I've done to date."

For the time being, Granda is paying both her mortgage and her monthly rent. She wants to move into her new house, and soon, but she can't do so until the interior modifications are made.

But Granda has a big personality and a lot of persistence. After all, to become a lawyer, she had to go to the California Supreme Court to remedy an application problem that could have prevented her from taking the bar exam.

"Every step leads to another step," she said. "My plans for the move are fast and loose, but that's how I roll.

"You've got to keep going no matter what. There's no choice."

Call The Bee's Anita Creamer, (916) 321-1136. Follow her in Twitter @AnitaCreamer.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Anita Creamer



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