Last night I watched the latest episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, where Ty Pennington and his crew helped two St. Louis-area families, the Martirizes and the Maleks, who are struggling to live life with major disabilities. Emmanual and Dawn Martirez’s home was refurbished to make it accessible to their twin boys, Evan and Alec, who have rare neurological diseases that cause extreme physical and cognitive disabilities. And Egyptian-born Sam Malek, who has cerebal palsy, owns a small coffee shop that was demoed and rebuilt to make it accessible to him and his employees with disabilities. In doing so, ABC makes a strong statement for supporting small-business and equal-employment opportunities for the disabled. Since its start in 2003, Extreme Makeover has touched the lives of dozens of people with disabilities by renovating their inaccessible or otherwise unlivable homes for free. Each project, which takes seven days, results in significant structural and design improvements to every room in the house, often bringing tears or joy to those who have lived with the difficulty of navigating through the place they call home. With more than 13 million U.S. viewers, the program gives a high profile to disability issues and inspires Americans to give back to their communities. Equally important is the primetime face-time for vendors that donate the funds to make these homes a reality. For example, Sears provides home appliances, CVS provides medical supplies and scholarships to families and Ford Motor occassionally donates vehicles. Southwest Airlines donates airfare for the families’ vacations, which include trips to Disneyworld, donated by Disney. Hilton and Marriott donate accommodations. These initiatives send a powerful message that companies are serious about reaching the disabled market, which holds a collective $300 billion in discretionary income. Families who want to be considered for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition can submit a video, complete an application, and mail both to the show’s producers. They can also ask a non-profit organization, church or neighborhood association to submit an application on their behalf.
Extreme Makeover’s Disability Message
November 10 2008 | by Suzanne Robitaille