Looking for an accessible and affordable apartment in Chicago is close to impossible. I came up with a list of requirements while searching for an accessible apartment which able-bodied people don’t really need to think about as far as accessibility goes:
1. Price: for obvious reasons. Note: the cheaper it is the more inaccessible it is because it’s usually a really old building.
2. Neighborhood: Is it safe?
3. Distance: How far is it from my job? (less than an hour is ideal travel time)
- Is there stairs to get in the front door of the building?
- Can I get into the building/open the doors by myself?
- Are there push buttons?
- Is there is a fob or a key?
- If it’s a fob can I reach the swipe device to unlock the door? And then can I open the door myself in the time allotted before it locks again?
- If it’s a key, can I reach the key hole? Do I have the strength to fully turn it to unlock it?
- Is there an elevator? (if not a first floor unit)
- Can I reach/press the elevator buttons by myself?
- Can I get into the unit by myself?
- Is the door lightweight enough so I can open the door to get out of the unit myself?
- Are there stairs in the unit?
- Is there a walk-in shower or just a tub?
- Can my shower chair fit in the shower/tub?
- Does the shower have a hose shower head?
- Can I reach at least one sink in the unit?
- Can I turn that sink on by myself?
- Can I fit through the doorways?
- Can I fit in the bathroom? Or will I have to leave my chair outside the bathroom and have someone carry me inside forcing me to use the bathroom with the door open?
- Is the toilet the correct height?
- Is it spacious enough?
- Will I have to get a twin sized bed to make sure there’s room for my chair to move around in my bedroom?
- Is the kitchen too narrow?
- Can I reach the light switches by myself?
- Are the buttons on the stove/oven low or high?
- Is the microwave over the stove?
- Is there a close transit stop near by?
- Is that transit stop accessible?
- Is the transit stop that lets me off at my job accessible too?
- Can I make extra copies of my key or do I need to find alternative ways for my PAs to enter my apartment?
Imagine looking for places online and you find the PERFECT place, from the pictures and description provided. Now imagine that happening even AFTER you find a place that’s listed under the “wheelchair accessible” filter option. So much excitement and faith and enthusiasm for these seemingly flawless finds. Then imagine calling the realtor to make an appointment for a viewing and ask to confirm the accessibility and they tell you that it’s a three-story walk up or there are steps to get in the building or that there’s steps in the actual unit… every single time. The amount of false hope I’ve had in the past two years of searching for apartments really puts a damper on things…
More accountability needs to happen and false advertising needs to stop. What twisted definition of ‘accessible’ do they have that gives them the right to listed as such. Or do they list it as accessible to guarantee it will pop it in more searches?
Some of these I understand can be changed or tweaked after signing but there’s a couple of factors that come into play here. For one, that’s more money I’m forced to spend for this that able-bodied people don’t need to. Second, although you are allowed to renovate your apartment, realtors usually want the apartment put back the exact same way we found it. Which is in turn, is financially counterproductive unless I plan on staying there for more than…. let’s say 5 years at least.
Now let me go into a little more depth. Yes, the ADA does require buildings to be accessible. But buildings that were already built before this law came into play basically get a “get-out-jail free card.” In Chicago, as if you don’t know already…. there are a lot of old buildings. These older buildings are in my rent price range but usually walk-ups. They also are much smaller so even first floor units wouldn’t work.
For a two bedroom can range anywhere from $600 to $5,000+. Believe it or not. In order to find all these requirements would be typically somewhere in the $1,100+ range…. per person…
Yes, I have a job. But I’m definitely not nearly making a six figure salary to be able to afford something like that. Especially since I’m also still pretty fresh out of college and taking care of some of those bills currently.
Now, you might be thinking, what about subsidized housing? Well, for one I would rather not live in a building with all disabled and old people. Honestly, I think of disabled people as our own race. I don’t want segregation. I want diversity. Inclusion. People my age. People that are able-bodied. People of color. All types of people. ALSO, subsidized housing is for people with low-income. Which I don’t qualify for with my full-time job. It really grinds my gears to know that just because I am disabled and need housing also requires me to have low-income. I don’t even have the option to live in subsidized housing even if I wanted to. So there’s that.
I am an independent, middle class woman trying to fit normally in society with a disability.
I also don’t believe that anyone should settle. If I’m going to be signing a contract and locking myself into anything, I better really fucking like it or I will not sign. I will not sign to any apartment I am not 100% in love with just because it’s the “only” option I can find. I don’t believe that’s fair to myself or a good example for others out there that may be in a similar situation as me.
My best option would be to just buy my own condo or house but unfortunately I don’t have the funds to put a down payment on one. It is something I plan on doing in the near future though! Definitely more cost-effective than renting in the city.
For now I continue my depressing search of the constant reminder that accessibility everywhere isn’t as acknowledged as it should be…
Also, if anyone is willing to help me pay for that down payment on a condo, please let me know. (: