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Home Accessibility: It Is Only Two Steps...

  • Published: 2015-11-09 (Rev. 2016-10-19) - Contact: Thomas C. Weiss at Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Most people buying homes do not even consider whether their home is accessible.

Main Document

"While certain cities have yet to reach the point of being accessible to everyone, strides have been made in many instances."

The purchase of a home is something many people pursue without considering what the future might bring from a health or disability perspective. When people buy a home they often times are, 'wowed,' by the features the home already possesses. They do not take into consideration things such as accessibility as they age. Homes built during the post-WWII era here in Pueblo, Colorado where I live were certainly not built with accessibility in mind; my home was built in the year 1942, for example.

When a person begins searching for a home to buy, one they will live in for many years, they often do not think of accessibility where their own family members and friends are concerned. Will your home be accessible if Uncle Bob shows up using a wheelchair? Most people buying homes do not even consider whether their home is accessible to others, let alone themselves, unless they are already a person who experiences a form of disability requiring access to the home.

A Bit of Background

Where my own choice is concerned, I did take accessibility into consideration before I purchased the home I am in. My thought at the time was that there are, 'only two steps,' onto the front porch and the same on the back of the home. I am a person who has osteoarthritis and I am aware that it is a progressive form of arthritis. What I did not anticipate is the fact that arthritis has caught up with me as an issue long before I am prepared to install things such as ramps out front and in back.

Arthritis is not my only concern. I am also a person with epilepsy and things which might harm me further if I have a seizure were something I also looked for. Like many people with disabilities; however, financial constraints prevented me from insisting there are no sharp corners where walls meet for example. When people who experience forms of disabilities search for homes in Pueblo, the architecture and financing can replace the need for accessibility.

City Accessibility Efforts

Please understand that we, as a population of people with disabilities, cannot point a finger towards the cities we live in. Cities across America have been moving towards accessibility for some period of time. While certain cities have yet to reach the point of being accessible to everyone, strides have been made in many instances.

Here in Pueblo, the city has been installing curb cuts and ensuring that major stores have Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) features. Does that mean I should expect the City of Pueblo to modify my personal home so it is accessible? I do not believe so; Pueblo is not responsible for my personal home and any modifications needed. So what about the homes of individuals with disabilities?

Individual Homes

Cities around America have different programs, often through non-profit organizations or the Veterans Administration for example. What does this mean to people with disabilities who live in their own homes? It means, to begin with, that we must abide by the rules of these programs. If we are unable to abide by the program's rules, we will most likely find ourselves back at stage one, searching for assistance to make our individual homes accessible to ourselves and the people in our lives.

It is very easy to say, 'The program exists, I am a person with disabilities - why shouldn't I qualify?' For some of these programs, there is a waiting list I am quite sure. In areas that experience more poverty, the wait for services such as ramp building or widening of doorways might be quite extensive. To be plain, I have never met a person with disabilities who may be considered to be wealthy.

So how, as a person with disabilities, am I to gain some kind of support where putting ramps on the front and back steps, widening the doorways in my home and other accessibility needs are concerned? An equal society cannot exist if even personal homes are not accessible to others. The thought that crosses my mind now is that people with disabilities are one patient lot; patience learned through having to deal with a society that does not recognize the accessibility needs we have.

The Remaining Issue

The issue remains; is accessibility worth the patient wait? For me, it certainly is. At some point I will find myself unable to tackle even the two steps in front to get through the door. Will I find myself with a non-profit or the VA, waiting for who knows how long, until I finally get some ramps put in? Will I find myself wondering if making this home accessible will ever happen at all?

How many people with disabilities have to live with the understanding that lacking access to our homes is making our lives far harder to live than necessary? My guess is there are millions of us, just in America alone. Now my thought is that the wait for America and other nations to stop spending so much money on military hardware and associated activities might actually be longer than the wait for accessibility services for people with disabilities who own their own homes.

Time Will Tell

For me, time will definitely tell. It might be easier to hire people who are able-bodied and need the work to build things like ramps, or modify doorways. The costs could be kept to paying for the lumber and the person or persons hired to build the ramp or make another modification. People with disabilities who live in older, harder to modify homes can research the availability of home accessibility and modification in our own cities, but time will definitely pass before the end result of accessibility is achieved.

One of the fortunate things about living in Pueblo is there are a great many people in this smaller city who have multiple skills. For example; my neighbor is a painter, roofer and mechanic. He knows how to build small ramps, as well as how to widen doorways. The only question is, 'where is the money to pay him going to come from, as well as the cost of materials?' Time; I guess, will tell.

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