I spent many, many nights laying in bed looking on apartments.com at the limited number of places to live in my town. Being 36 and living with my parents, it definitely felt like it was time to leave the nest. Living independently as a person with cerebral palsy and marfan syndrome was something that I wanted to do and that I felt like I was capable of doing, but I also knew I had to be in a building that would fit my needs. Since I don’t drive, this would mean being in an urban area where things such as restaurants and coffee shops would be within walking distance and easily accessible. Although I am not a wheelchair user, because it’s hard for me to climb stairs, unless I lived on the first floor, it would be necessary for me to be in a building with an elevator. (People who aren’t wheelchair users, in many cases, can still benefit from elevators.) It is interesting to note that a report from the Center for American Progress last year stated that “Less than 5 percent of housing nationwide is accessible for people with moderate mobility difficulties, and less than 1 percent is accessible for wheelchair users.”
A few years ago, I discovered a building I wanted to live in that wasn’t far from transit and was literally right across from a grocery store, which was super convenient. It was one of the more affordable buildings in my town and it had an elevator. Yet, no matter how many times I called the building to inquire about an apartment, I was told over and over that there were no one-bedroom apartments available, which is what I wanted. As the person working there told me, units very rarely became available there because the building is one of the more affordable.
Barriers Molly Faced to Obtaining Housing
In my situation, I have been very lucky to find housing that suits my needs that I am able to afford. However, I know there are countless other people with disabilities that don’t have the privilege that I have to access housing that is affordable and accessible. It concerns me that most of the accessible housing in my town is newer housing with rent that is almost always very high. People with disabilities who are not able to work, or who can only work part-time, or who are on SSI would not be able to afford to live in these buildings. There are also older apartment buildings in town, but the problem is that those buildings aren’t accessible, so although someone with access needs may be able to afford to live there, that doesn’t mean they’ll have housing that truly fits their needs.
Molly’s Current Housing Situation
My story has a happy ending, and after so many years of living with my parents, I finally found the perfect, accessible building in a great location which I have now moved into. I love the feeling of having my own space where I can live, work, and entertain friends and family.
My wish and hope is that everyone with a disability can have their own happy ending where they are able to live in a place of their choice that they are able to afford and that meets their needs. Unfortunately, so often that is not the case, but we at The Kelsey are working every day to change that by not only creating housing that is both inclusive and accessible but by working to advocate for changes in policies that support a housing infrastructure that meets the needs of people with disabilities.