For I think I saw, the 9th straight year, this May 1st was Blog Against Disablism Day. Hash tagged #BADD2014 on Twitter, it asked individuals to talk about an area where people with disabilities still experience significant challenges in image, access, or perception. I wrote a post for this last year entitled The Rarity of Multi, in which I discussed some of the unique things with which a deafblind individual, or really anyone with multiple disabilities, must deal. I’m late to the punch with this, but figured that the message was more important than timing.
As I write, I’m viewing a Twitter stream about individuals who are in Washington DC, participating in a rally by an organization called Adapt that is designed to highlight continued access needs for persons with disabilities in housing. I suppose these are most applicable to persons in wheelchairs, in that ramps, low thresholds, and the like should be available to anyone who needs them. But as they point out, creating housing that meets these standards would have the effect of making it easier for others to get in and out as well.
I can tell you from my experience that fully accessible housing is still very much a thing to be worked towards. In my area of the complex, for example, I can’t think of a way for someone using a wheelchair to easily get into my apartment. Well I guess there are two potential ways: either squeezing onto the porch from the right side, which would involve some scary ruts in which one might get stuck, or coming down a fairly slanted hill onto the area between C and D. I suppose the latter way would be best, but would I’m sure involve its own dangers.
And if they get to my door, they would have to somehow hoist themselves up over the high step in order to get inside. Again, I don’t know a whole lot about how wheelchairs work, but I assume this is possible to do? Someone can inform me.
As this grassroots movement points out, another big part of access is affordability. There is definitely a lack of affordable housing that is also in decent enough shape for a person to really feel comfortable therein. I guess that I am fortunate, in that all I really need to get by is four walls that generally hold up and a door I can lock. However, even these haven’t always been promised me in my current residence, as one day the front door’s lock inexplicably broke and my neighbor and I had to double team the maintenance people in order for them to comprehend the seriousness of the problem and come over.
Given that so many of us with disabilities are un or underemployed, having the ability to keep that price down is tantamount to maintaining independence. I’ve talked with some who tell me that they have been unable to find anything less than $800 that also met their access needs, when really they need a place in the $5-600 price range. Some of these individuals have health issues that mean they can’t really be in situations that might disturb them, such as locations with loud music or rowdy neighbors. Others are blind or otherwise unable to power vehicles, and thus need to live along a bus line and as close to groceries, recreational areas and the like as possible. And yes, one might argue that these folks can use paratransit, a specialized door-to-door service for persons with disabilities, but even this requires that you be within 3/4 of a mile of a bus line in order to gain regular access. Slow change is happening, but currently housing in these areas, and especially affordable housing, is too often sketchy.
I am mainly hoping to contribute something to the thought process around this complicated issue, and the varied solutions that will have to be implemented in order to address it. I’m sure that there are many voices who can point these things out more eloquently than I can, but figure that by granting it some exposure here, perhaps I’ll get others to check those other voices out as well. For we all certainly have the right to live in communities that help us grow and use our potential to its fullest.