Category Archives: Accessible Ministry

Healing, Hydroponics and the Homeless, Accessible Garden

Healing, Hydroponics and the Homeless, Accessible Garden

Tom and I toured the Lighthouse Mission in Lakeland, Florida with the Central Florida Lady Bloggers.  Knowing that many of the homeless have disabilities, I was interested in seeing how they addressed accessibility at their facility.  Every 2010 ADA Code accessibility detail was taken into consideration in both their men’s and women’s facilities.

Our hosts always graciously asked if anyone would prefer to use the elevator, whenever we walked towards the stairs during our tour.

Accessible ramps mean that everyone is welcome
This is what an ADA compliant ramp looks like. Lighthouse in Lakeland makes sure that everyone is comfortable in their facilities.
Compliant stair handrail
This 12″ extension on a stair handrail makes all of the difference in balance.

We learned how Lighthouse Ministries takes a holistic approach to serving the homeless and community.  They provide “Success Sheltering,” which includes educational and vocational development for residents to discover a pathway of success in a safe living environment.  Everyone who lives on the campus is given an opportunity to experience peace, life purpose and fulfillment of potential.

Success Sheltering includes nutritious meals, safe shelter, clothing, personal financial management,  addiction recovery,  case management, childcare,  transportation,  domestic violence safe haven, adult education, dorm life for college & vocational training, employment, career advancement, leadership training, life skills, life coaching, discipleship, mentoring, responsible living and serving others.

We were fascinated with the 7000 square foot urban hydroponic garden that provides fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables to the shelter. Male residents re-enter the workforce by starting in the garden.  They find it a peaceful work experience that helps them to recover from the streets.  It gives them a calm place to contemplate and see the results of their effort.

The garden is accessible, with wide smooth pathways and plants that can easily be reached from a seated position.

Accessible Garden
Healing begins in the garden. Homeless men work in the garden providing fresh fruits and vegetables for guests eating at the Lighthouse Ministries shelter.

As a special treat, Lighthouse Ministries gave each of us a gift certificate to use in one of their retail Stores.  Their seven Thrift Stores provide clothing for their guests and household goods for their graduates.   Along with providing capital for funding programs, the Thrift Stores provide employment for program residents and a place for outreach to the community that includes the distribution of food boxes and clothing vouchers.

We visited two of the Lakeland, Florida retail stores.  They were both located in old buildings circa the 1930’s.  Employees graciously pointed out the side entry ramp to the furniture section, which was an old side street storefront.   This building is several old storefronts with different levels, an old warehouse, and a loading dock.  We entered from the furniture store section.  There were a few wide steps up from this section to the clothing and households area, located in the old storefronts that faced the main highway.  Several employees offered to escort us to the front accessible entry if we found the steps uncomfortable.  None of them ever mentioned that we might not be able to climb the stairs.  They all graciously mentioned how the steps were sometimes uncomfortable for them and offered an alternative.   We did not look at the restrooms, assuming that upgrading them for accessibility might be a hardship.

We were happy to learn that their staff is trained in Disabled Customer Service.  

We were also happy to learn that in their new facilities and in their older historical buildings, every reasonable effort was made for accessibility compliance.

Lighthouse Ministries knows the importance of including all people. Disability Smart Solutions is available to assist your business with overcoming architectural barriers and attitude barriers to accessibility.

Disability Smart Solutions is full-service ADA Consulting firm offering ADA Compliance Access Surveys, Project Consultation, Post-Compliance Audits, All-Ability Customer Service Training, Undercover Disabled Guest Mystery Shopping, Universal Design Product Review and Keynote Speaking.  Please contact us to review your accessibility needs.


I was thrilled to find new earings at a very low price.  Seven pairs  is not hoarding!  Tom bought a set of Italian ceramic pasta bowls. There were some very nice pieces of furniture, including an antique needlepoint child’s rocking chair.  As much as I wanted it,  we figured that it was best to leave the chair for someone with a child.  The Florida Summer afternoon thunderstorms also discouraged buying furniture, but we’ll be back!

Lighthouse Ministries Thrift Store
Swag from the Lighthouse Ministries gift store. Gracious staff, wide aisles, clean items, great prices and accessible; what more can a girl ask for?

Disability Smart Solutions, extends a HUGE thank you to Megan of More than A Coupon Queen, the event organizer.  Please visit her blog for the latest information on Florida Fun, Homeschooling,  Money Saving and Internet Deals.