7 Tips for Finding an Accessible Home
When Matt was first injured two years ago, we needed to find accessible housing quickly. He was currently living in a two story house with a roommate, and I was living out of state, so neither of our houses were going to be options. I must have called 80-100 different housing complexes without any luck. One had a “handicap accessible” apartment available, but it was down a flight of stairs (what???). Throw a 120lb black lab into the mix, and finding a rental was darn near impossible.
To date we have successfully rented an accessible home and purchased a home that we are currently renovating. So here are some tips for finding that diamond in the rough.
1. Network!! Reach out to local physical therapy groups, spinal cord injury hospitals, and disability advocacy organizations. The more people that know you’re looking, the better! We ended up finding our rental house through a fellow patient at the spinal cord rehabilitation hospital where Matt recovered.
2. Be open to a change. Matt and I both came from 2 story houses, and I loved having multiple levels. Unfortunately, the more stairs, the worse for a wheelchair, so I needed to focus on the benefits of a one story home. We also looked at townhouses and condos intended for elderly people because they were almost always accessibly built. We ended up buying a ranch and we absolutely love it. Not to mention our future children will not be able to escape Matt and eat a bunch of Legos by running upstairs.
3. Find an experienced realtor that understands what accessible means. We’re talking wide doorways, no step entry, accessible bathroom, open floor plan, etc. A realtor that has experience finding accessible homes will reach out to his/her network of realtors and may be able to find a house like you’re looking for before it even goes on the market.
4. Facetime is your friend. Matt and I had a list of about 50 houses to see when we were ready to buy. Instead of setting up our portable ramp and unloading Matt from the van at every single house, I would walk through while on Facetime (you could also use the Skype app if you’re not an Apple person), and if we both liked the house, we would go through the process of getting Matt inside. There were quite a few houses that I walked in and out of in about five minutes, so doing an initial Facetime was a huge time saver.
5. See the potential. Matt and I ended up with a ranch style home with a walk out basement. We are renovating the house to make it accessible, but it’s definitely taken some imagination. Find a contractor with experience with wheelchairs, and work with him/her and your realtor together to find a house you can fit into your budget including the purchase price as well as renovations to make it work for you.
6. Enlist the help of someone who has been through the process. My uncle had lots of experience shopping for wheelchair accessible houses since my aunt had a disability, and was a HUGE resource for us. He looked at the houses we were considering purchasing and was able to point out things we would have never considered.
7. Accept the situation. This was the hardest for me. When Matt was first hurt, I was not ready to commit to being a wheelchair wife. He had a year to heal before we knew if he would walk again, and doggonit, I was taking that year! I wasn’t ready to buy an accessible home because I didn’t know if we would need to. And that was fine. We rented. A lot of people in that situation make temporary changes (to their current home or by renting), and that is exactly what you need to do. I will never give up on Matt walking again someday, but I now accept that we need a home that he can comfortably navigate. Not just for him, but for me as well. The more independent he can be, the less assistance I need to provide him. It’s easy to dreamily wish for beautiful bi-levels and old houses with gorgeous winding staircases, but that’s just not what is meant to be.
The bottom line is be patient, utilize your resources, and get creative. Good luck!