Where Are All The Accessible Housing Options?
For the past nine years, I've lived using a wheelchair. I've realized that there are few housing options for people with a disability or limited mobility.
My first house
In 2014, after I became paralyzed, I found a condo on the top floor of a building with an elevator. It was a blessing from God. I thought, "Wow! This is awesome!" But it definitely had its cons.
Sometimes, it wouldn't work. I wouldn't be able to get in touch with anyone who could fix it. The neighborhood’s power would go out because of storms or an accident, and again I could not use the elevator - because it runs on electricity.
I would call 911 and be put in a lift. They’d carry me down the flights of stairs, which was very scary.
The unexpected move
Then, I unexpectedly had to move. The owner decided 30 days before our lease was due to be resigned. It was because he wanted to sell, and we only had 30 days to find an accessible place to live.
Can you say stressful?! The same situation happened to me three more times.
The dreaded stairs
The other homes I lived in had stairs leading to the door. I thank God that I learned how to walk up them! However, I needed someone to place my walker at the top of the steps. And then, I needed them to carry my wheelchair up the stairs after I went up.
This went on for at least three months after I moved in. My waiver program through my insurance would pay for modifications - but there was a catch. I had to be living in the home for a while and then have someone come and evaluate the space.
Some days, I didn’t have the strength to walk up the stairs. If the weather was bad and it was raining, my family and I would get soaking wet just trying to get me into my house.
It’s the days when I don’t feel well that get to me. This usually means I’m too weak to walk downstairs safely for my mom to be able to bring my wheelchair down after I made it down the flights.
Every day before I go to sleep, I pray that nothing happens at night that would make me need to exit in an emergency. Having to do this is so dangerous for me.
Unaccommodating property owners
The rental property I’m living in has three flights of stairs. All the bedrooms are on the top floor. The owner doesn’t allow me to have grab bars in the bathroom room, nor a stair lift, so that I can get up and down the stairs independently. The bathroom is on a different floor than the kitchen, and I have to go up or down stairs when cooking.
Trying to get out
I just tried to resign my lease in my current home (the one that’s not accessible), but I have to stay because there’s nowhere else to move to. If I happened to be blessed with an accessible and affordable home to move to while still in this home, breaking my current lease is another issue.
I was approved for section 8 a few years ago but couldn’t find an accessible home. The rooms and doorways needed to be wider, so I could squeeze through them. This would help me live in the space until my waiver is approved for more modifications.
I met with section 8 in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. They weren’t much help. Most properties I saw should have been torn down and rebuilt. There were many houses on top of hills, with street parking all around, but I need off-street parking. I also would’ve had to walk up flights of stairs to the porch, which isn’t safe for me.
Habitat for Humanity
I’m now looking into Habitat for Humanity. It seems good, but there aren’t always properties available each month. I keep looking to see if there’s anything newly listed.
The available properties are usually in pretty rough neighborhoods. I know there’s nowhere that you can be 100% safe. However, I’d like a little comfort in knowing I can get out of my car by myself, put my wheelchair together, and safely make it into my home.
I have to consider the other expenses, too!
My income is aid, which comes from my mom at the moment. I have large furniture and multiple adaptive devices. Will I ever be able to have a home with enough space for not only my mom’s things but mine too?
Moreover, if you’re disabled like me and on a fixed income but have the blessing to have someone else on the mortgage, you still have to pay a lot for other stuff, like inspections. This takes away from covering other expenses. I am disabled, and I don’t want to have such an expensive mortgage that doesn’t give me wiggle room for emergency hospital stays or surgeries due to NMO.
If there are options, they’re not easy to find
I’ve been disabled since September 2013. I know people have been disabled far longer than I have, some their entire life. There are so many obstacles to being disabled and in a wheelchair, and finding a home has been a struggle.
I’m unsure if I’m missing out on options for housing for young adults like myself. If the resources are out there, they feel so far from my fingertips.
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