Increased Availability of Accessible Housing Is a Must
Increased Availability of Accessible Housing Is a Must

Categories: Community Life, Housing

Photograph of Mariah Kilbourne in her college dorm roomBy Guest Blogger Mariah Kilbourne, Ms. Wheelchair America 2013

Freedom! Independence! As an eighteen-year-old college freshman, I was bound and determined for those things to become mine. As I crossed the threshold of my college dorm the first day of the semester in 2007, I was beginning a new journey. For the first time in my life, I was on my own. It was thrilling, yet terrifying – I felt joy, excitement and a little trepidation all rolled into one. I was on my way to become all that I was meant to be. Many steps led up to that moment, to making that life-changing leap of independence possible – including going to college, driving my accessible van and living on my own.

I have been a mover and shaker since the day I was born – three months early. I just could not wait to get my start in the world! Due to my premature birth, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. My cerebral palsy affects the way my muscles move, so I rely on a wheelchair – a.k.a. “The Beast” – for mobility.

For a long time, the thought of living on my own made me anxious. I was the kid who called my mom at 3 a.m. during sleepovers because I wanted to come home. I had never been to sleepover camp without my mom as a chaperone. When the time came to consider living on my own in a college dorm, I adamantly told everyone it would not be happening. I was 110 percent convinced I would be a commuter student, and I would not consider otherwise.

My firm decision was shaped in part by my cerebral palsy. At my childhood home, my accessibility and care needs were always met. My parents had seamlessly worked accessibility features into our custom home design by lowering shelves, cabinets and light switches; adding grab bars and shower benches; and widening doorways. All these features were integrated into my home environment so that I could live comfortably and confidently.

Then came my final semester of high school and the college campus tours. As soon as I rolled into the park-like environment of the Texas Lutheran University campus, it immediately felt like home. Everyone was friendly, welcoming and encouraging. Maybe, just maybe, I would consider looking at the dorms during my visit. When I saw Trinity Hall, an accessible dorm with all the same accessibility features I had at home, I decided to take a giant leap of faith. I became a proud resident of that dorm in August 2007.

I flourished in my college environment. Confident and courageous after my first few months in college, my parents had to drive up to see me because there was no way I was moving back home. I loved my newfound independence. I became an active member on the Campus Activities Board, the Alpha Mu Gamma Spanish Language Club and more. I was thrilled to accept an editor position on the college newspaper, which allowed my passions for writing, photography and meeting people to thrive.

After I finished up my college career as a Summa Cum Laude graduate, I became gainfully employed in a position with the City of Seguin, Texas, which I still proudly hold to this day. In my positions with the Main Street Program and Seguin Economic Development Corporation, I assist with writing columns, photography, social media and other tasks. I also write a bi-monthly column for a disability resource site – The Mobility Resource.

My years in college had been a major success. I never let my physical challenges get me down. Instead, I used them as my power, force and fuel to get through life with gusto and joy – at 8 MPH. After my college graduation, I was determined for my success and independence to continue.

However, I faced an unexpected hurdle after I packed up and moved out of my beloved Trinity Hall. I quickly discovered there is a lack of accessible housing throughout my home city of San Antonio, the state of Texas and the United States at large. I called about apartment after apartment, only to be told that they did not offer fully accessible units, or that the few Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant ones they had were already occupied with tenants and had been for years. I contacted local independent living agencies to get advice and was told that the accessible housing options offered by the state were currently filled and, worse, had a waiting list of more than 10 years long. Nonetheless, I placed my name on the list. Without any other viable options, I moved back home.

If I have to continue to wait for services and accessible housing options, I will be stuck at my childhood home until I am at least 34 years old. I do not want to be known as the successful college graduate and independent business woman who is “living with my parents.” There is shame and negative stigma associated with that notion. After years of hard work to become independent, I’ve had to regress and give back some of my freedom because no other choices were available to me.

Unfortunately, this same scenario is happening to young adults with disabilities throughout the United States. In a 2010 NPR Report by Joseph Shapiro noted that the number of young adults moving into nursing homes is on the rise due to a lack of resources available for people with disabilities to live independently in their communities. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services indicated that individuals ages 31 to 64 accounted for 14 percent of nursing home residents that year.

The report went on to state that the trend is likely the result of limited resources to help people with disabilities. Even as funds for home-based care have increased in some states, the need for assistance is rising faster. Ultimately, states are required to pay for nursing homes, but aren’t required to pay for in-home assistance, leaving many people with disabilities few options. This, even though the Supreme Court determined more than 10 years ago, in Olmstead v. L.C., that people with disabilities should have the option to live in their communities whenever possible.

This is not the future I envisioned or want for myself or for my peers with disabilities. People with disabilities have the right to live independent lives of purpose, just like our non-disabled peers. It is my hope that we will continue to support housing options that encourage independence within our communities. And it is my fervent hope that we continue to create an inclusive world for people of all cognitive and physical abilities so that we may all be included, respected and valued as active participants in our communities and society at large – without any limits or barriers.

Mariah Kilbourne is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Texas Lutheran University, where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in the Spanish Language. She currently works in the Economic Development Office for the City of Seguin, Texas, and is also, at the age of 24, a published writer, successful advocate and avid adaptive sports enthusiast.

Born with cerebral palsy, Mariah was crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2013. As Ms. Wheelchair America, Mariah is a spokseperson and advocate for the 57 million Americans living with disabilities. She is using her year as Ms. Wheelchair America to encourage everyone to be “Inclined for Inclusion” through accessibility. She wants to increase fair and equitable access to public facilities, especially in historic districts, which are currently inaccessible to people with disabilities. She travels throughout the United States to promote the need to eliminate architectural and attitudinal barriers that have plagued the disabled community in the past. 

 

43 Responses to Increased Availability of Accessible Housing Is a Must

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  4. Donna H. says:

    You are an inspiration. I too will be starting college soon and I have Lupus and the housing in DC is awful, I live in a room and am on the waiting list for housing and the place I live in all kinds of people live here and they threaten you, you are not supposed to have overnight guests, but they do and do drugs and I have no place to go, so I have to stay here. We really need affordable housing, please someone at HUD please help and everyone that has written and needs housing, I wish you the best of luck.

  5. M. Vine says:

    Hello everyone! I am pleased to know that I am not alone fighting what is right! I used to work in law enforcement. In 1990, I sustained a work related cervical injury (I won my case under workers comp.) Also in 1990, I became a single mother of 3 sons and a daughter. I continued working to provide for my children. My youngest and oldest son joined the military after high school and spent 8 years of their lives in the war. I had to beg my 3rd son to stay home because the thought of having all my 3 sons joining the military and going to war was just too much for me. In addition, my only daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability when she was 2 years old, as well as my physical disability. In 2005, regardless of my disability, I took the test, passed and received my DRE Real Estate License. My son set up a home office for me and with a computer, my neck brace and help from doctors and my broker, I was able to save homes from foreclosures. My contact number was published on the Hope for Homeowners under HUD. In 2009, I saved more homes through a new program called short refinance from north to south in California. I did strictly mortgage loans. But starting in April 2010, there was nothing I could do to help anyone because I refused to have homes appraised by Broker’s Pricing Opinion (BPO’s) because as far as I was concerned, using BPO to appraise a home is against the Real Estate Law.

    Above is just a summary of my background. The following are on-going battles from the time I moved in with my daughter (who is suffering from mental retardation, OCD, etc. and I am suffering from a cervical injury and fluid on my right shoulder):

    I moved my daughter into a non-profit public housing complex in mid 2000, with her fiancee; both have been disabled since birth. My daughter was nine months pregnant at the time. In January 2001, I received a call from the Sheriff’s Department that my daughter needed me ASAP for her safety. Needless to say, my daughter became the target of harassment, discrimination, etc. San Bernardino Housing Development, also called CORE or Renaissance, is a non-profit public housing complex and there are thousands of these kinds of apartment complexes nationwide. When I arrived, I met with 2 deputy sheriffs. I was briefed about my daughter’s situation and both deputies escorted me to my daughter’s apartment. Upon arrival, my daughter came to me and started crying with her son in her arms and present was children services, her ex-fiancee and his mother, another deputy sheriff and my grandson’s psychologist. After I said, “I am taking over at this point unless someone has any questions for me.” Everyone left other than the deputy sheriffs to advise Jennifer that everything would be OK and that I was there to make sure of it. I gathered all the paperwork, including a copy of her rent payment history. I also had to call Fair Housing to send a letter to the apartment management to allow me to stay with my daughter as her caregiver for now. The first month after I arrived I spent gathering documents, answers, getting carpeting replaced, etc.

    The first week that I was here, I called management to let them know that I would be placing furniture, clothes, etc. under the staircase and it would be picked up by Salvation Army in 3 days. They said, “No problem.” The following day, I heard a knock and my daughter opened the door. I started to hear a female yelling at my daughter using abusive words and being verbally loud. My daughter had no clue what she was saying and she was staring at her. I slowly opened the door wide and asked, “Excuse me, but who are you and what do you think you are doing?” She left in a hurry! I called the manager and asked who was just here yelling at my daughter? I went into the management office and it was the Assistant Manager. Since then, she has never talked to me personally nor said a word. She became the manager when the old manager left.

    Current Issues:

    In 2004, my daughter started working through Regional Center help. Regional Center is a part of Social Services that helps disabled people with developmental problems find work. My daughter receives SSI and I was placed on disability in 2005, receiving SSD.

    In 2010, I could no longer work. I now have a degenerative cervical disc and last year an MRI showed fluid on my right shoulder. I also developed high blood pressure and my blood test recently came out abnormal. Also in 2010, suddenly all employees working in our housing complex, from management to maintenance, were either replaced or terminated. I checked the website of San Bernardino Housing Development, a non-profit organization, low income public housing complex which is government subsidized, and saw it was under FBI investigation.

    Every year we have to re-certify for a new one year lease. I asked the new manager if she could show me how they calculate our yearly rent. The year before our rent was $571.00 and in 2010 it went up to $797.00 a month. I questioned the drastic increase and she told me that my daughter would have an increase of 20 cents. I asked her if she was basing her calculation on her hourly income and not from her last year’s W2. She said, “No, we based it on her hourly income plus her monthly SSI income.” I am her payee representative and I make sure I report all her income to SSI. The less income the more SSI she receives and the more income the less SSI she receives. However, if you are basing your calculation on future income, I believe it is against the law. In the mortgage loan it’s called “Stated Program” which means only a profit-based organization or company can use such a calculation. Needless to say, I believed by asking questions about her calculation her ego was also questioned as a manager. She told me, “If you don’t like it, move out.” I also mentioned that Jennifer cannot sign legal paperwork without me since she doesn’t understand the word lease. She became irate and told me to contact her regional officer, so I did and after I finished introducing myself she told me, “If you don’t like it, move out.”

    I told the manager and her staff that they are not allowed to enter our apartment without my permission unless in a dire emergency. Three times they entered our apartment while I was home and three times I reminded them. The manager twice knocked on my door and entered and started checking my apartment and I said, “Remember, you are not allowed inside my apartment.” The second time was the assistant manager. I reminded her of the same thing and she just ignored me and went to my daughter’s room and before she left she told me that we cannot use any electrical cords. I started to call Fair Housing and spoke to someone who had no clue what I was talking about. She was also rude.

    Fo re-certification for 2011, they had my daughter sign all the paperwork on the lease. They waited a month to call me to sign. I went to the office and started reading the lease and on their check list there is a question about if the tenants are disabled. It said, “Not Applicable.”

    In conclusion, why do we have “Fair Housing” employees who has no idea what Fair Housing means? Tenants have rights, especially if they are disabled! I have called HUD to no avail. I have called public housing to no avail. I called Renaissance Compliance and was told I’d be called back and that was a year ago. I signed a lease for $797.00, a couple days later my rent went up to $824.00. I have been sending a check of $797.00 based on what I signed on the lease. A couple days later, a 3 day notice would be at my door. I also received a notice if I would like to participate in opening a non-profit Credit Union. Can someone please tell me if any kind of financial institution can survive without profit? If someone out there knows something I don’t, please help me.

  6. Pingback: “Increased Availability of Accessible Housing is a Must” – DisabilityBlog | Lancaster County LINK

  7. Sue says:

    re: USDA , they must make money on the application fee which gives you 90 days after approved or they are doing a survey or both.

  8. Dorie B. says:

    Affordable Accessible Housing

    Imagine you are 19 years old. You are driving down the road to pick up your girlfriend. It’s Valentines Day and you have a date. Then, out of no where, a drunk driver runs a red light and T-bones the driver’s side of your car!

    The next thing you remember is waking up in the hospital with tubes everywhere. You are terrified when you discover you can’t move your legs.

    After months of physical therapy, you begin the journey of accepting that the rest of your life will mostly be spent in a wheelchair. Your parents are great. They do everything you need them to do. You live with them, eat with them, they drive you everywhere and you begin to feel despondent, dependent and yearn for a life of your own; a life of independence. You bring it up with them. They totally understand, because they know they will not always be around to take care of you. Their biggest fear is what will happen to you if they die.

    You start saving up as much money as you can from your Social Security Disability Income. Your dream is to live on your own. You work very hard at learning how to drive a van with hand controls with an automatic lift for your wheelchair. Because your disability occurred before the age of 22, you can access in home Developmental Disability services through Community Mental Health. The Services are focused on teaching independent living skills. A team of paid personnel drift in and out of your parent’s house to assist you in learning how to take care of yourself with their help and mom and dad finally get some respite. You work hard. You adapt. You are getting ready to spread your wings and take on the journey to adulthood you thought you had lost forever.

    You have been waiting for years for the local Housing Commission to open up their wait list. Finally, they do and you apply for a Section 8 Tenant Based Voucher, knowing in advance that hundreds of others are doing the same exact thing; knowing that ultimately it boils down to a Lottery and all you can do is pray your name will be chosen out of some proverbial hat.

    You win! You actually win that impossible lottery! The notice arrives in your mail and you have 60 days to find a Section 8 landlord who has a vacancy. But you need an accessible place to live. You need doorways that are wide enough for a wheelchair to get through. You need a roll-in shower. You need maneuverability space in front of the toilet for transferring. You need a sink you can reach and roll under. You need a ramp to the door. You search and search and search, but it’s just not out there. And you can’t afford to pay for the modifications yourself on Social Security Disability. Mom and dad are still paying for your hospital bills from the accident because like many 19 year olds, you didn’t have health insurance when it happened. They can barely afford to pay their own mortgage payment.

    It’s the 60th day, and your search has left you empty handed. You tear up that voucher. Roll into your bedroom. Transfer to your bed. The tears begin to roll down your face as you try to begin another journey of acceptance. At the age of 28, you begin to realize, if things don’t change, you may never live any other place other than your parent’s house. And like your parents, you begin to fear, “What will happen to me when they die?”

    Thousands of families all across Oakland & Macomb Counties of Michigan are facing this same dilemma every day for far too numerous types of disabilities to mention. The lack of affordable and/or accessible housing is astronomical!

    Please contact your Senators and Representatives. It’s time to let them know Accessibility in Affordable housing is necessary for Independent Living!

    Dorie B.
    Advocacy Specialist

    • Vikki says:

      These thoughts are constantly on my mind as my daughter graduates high school this June. She was in a quad accident that left her as an incomplete SCI from the waist. This July 4th will be her 5th anniversary. She doesn’t want to live in a dorm and do I blame her? With her bladder issues, how can I expect her to share a room and bathroom with a complete stranger that would discover her most inner personal secrets of life with an SCI. That would totally be humiating for her and I fear accessible housing without multi-steps to get in the door or a bathroom she doesn’t have room to transfer to the toilet or bathtub will be a problem finding. My biggest fear is that she’s just not ready to live on her own, emotionally. She’s been raised in a rural town in Northern California and has depended on me for assistance with everything outside of our home. I’ve been trying to get her to take her driver’s license test since she was 16, thinking that will give her a sense of independence, but now that all her finals are coming up, she has no time to study for her license. My daughter hasn’t completely accepted life on these terms. Now that she turned 18, she had to reapply for Social Security disability and of course the tons of paperwork that goes with it. She had to do a very lengthy psych evaluation, which was the first application she’s every filled out without mom doing it and it took over an hour to complete and then the psych evaluation as well, which took over an hour. Every time she has to see someone, she has to relive her experience and it reminds her that she lost her life as she knew it (and the use of her legs) at 13-1/2 years old. That’s just the way she thinks of it. I realize, as her mom, I have to let go and let her make mistakes. I’ve really tried to encourage her to be independent outside of our relationship. She is going to get a harsh reality check when she runs up against what the challenges in society. I hope it’s not too difficult, but since we are so sheltered from a bigger community, our expectations are a bit unreliable.

  9. Patrick David S. says:

    I am a remodeler of homes. I have always thought of doing more easily accessible homes by installing pocket doors, instead of swing, turning the sink around, and having the facets in front, putting in a shower with no pan, just a sloped floor, lowering the light switches, putting the counter tops at a reasonable height, doing away with steps. This started as an idea when I was buying homes and fixing them up, but my investors wanted nothing to do with it. They said it would limit the market to that clientele. So it remains as a dream rather than reality.

    • Dan says:

      I have had a similar problem and so far the only solution has been to “make it work.” I find it interesting that occupancy on these units creates waiting lists 10 years long yet real estate investors don’t think there is enough demand. What is better than a paying tenant that will stay in your unit for 10+ years? Another issue that I have run across is that many of the accessible housing options have an income restrictions attached to them. So if I make a little “too much” money I still can’t live there.

  10. Sherry says:

    My husband and I are waiting til he turns 62 in Sept., then we can apply for Senior Housing and 9-12 month wait. We both have mild CP, but the disability list is 3-5 years in the city where my sons live. We are saving what we can to move. It’s a lot of stress, but somehow it will work out! There needs to be a lot more Disability housing, it’s a serious issue that needs a lot more funding!!

  11. Ron T. says:

    It seems that every effort to apply for the USDA $20,000 loan at 1% interest with the accompanying $7,500 grant for those over 62 years of age was thwarted by the local USDA officials out of Middletown, New York without recourse. As a qualifying individual who has financial resources to pay back the loan through a co-signer, again, thwarted in every attempt financial, and never followed up on by anybody independent of the local loan officer, irregardless of outcome.

  12. Ron T. says:

    The USDA says through its loan program, $20,000 is available for home improvements at 1% interest for qualifying individuals. I even got a valid co-signer available and still, couldn’t get the loan. This is for a house that on the application was asked of if the house had a full bathroom and if the house had full heat. In both cases, the answer was “no” there is not full heat and there is not a full bathroom. The co-signer will qualify for credit of the loan, if the mission of the USDA is to keep home owners in their own property with the basic necessities, and yet, the local USDA wouldn’t do a thing for God knows what reason, but it wouldn’t be because they had read the mission statement of the USDA?

  13. Ron T. says:

    My comment is that the United States Department of Agriculture has proven nothing in the way of help, by whatever means necessary. I qualify in every way except the USDA fulfilling its own mission statement and application questions. Nothing, no grant, no loan, nothing. I don’t know what the USDA puts out all this malarkey about whom they are presupposing to help, and the local bureau falls all over itself to find a way to deny help to qualifying individuals. Can’t say it enough.

  14. Ruby Dolores W. says:

    My apartment has not updated the bathroom accessability for the bathtub. What are the responsibilities to have it fixed for me?

  15. Mardell says:

    These stories are great and sad, because even though people with disabilities pick themselves up and go on, and make something of their life, they still are in many ways discriminated against, just because of the lack of housing.

    Even though I am not in that situation, I can see why you would not want to live at home with Mom & Dad, but they are your family, and there is nothing wrong with that, even though you have a very successful life. Many people do not even have that. My grandson, in his haste to not live with Mom & Dad forever, at 18, moved, and after 2 years of being on his own, is asking to move back home. In the area we live in, it is tough.

    I hope that Mariah, with all her travels, can spread the word about how disabled people need a place to live, too, and get some results. It shouldn’t be based on income, but the needs of a person. No matter what the situation is, people should not have to beg for help. Seems the U.S can’t even help their own people, but they have to go to other countries to help others!

    After working many years, I also have had to go on disability. You only get paid once a month, and I was making twice of what I get now (a rude awaking). Just turned 62 and now have been off work for a year, so I now have no medical insurance (have to wait 2 years from when you get disability) nor prescription coverage for medications I have to take, and am taking myself off others that I can do without.

    There are many, many more people in worse situations then I am, but tell me that after I pay all my bills, buy medicine and food, and have to wait until my payment on my maxed out credit card has some money on it, so I can continue to eat the rest of the month (a lot of anxiety and crying).

    Problems with my lower back and neck due to the type of work I did, standing on your feet all day, and many of those years not even getting anything, except a 30 minute lunch. All that stress, and severe depression, then anxiety and panic also set in.

    My husband had a double-by pass in 2000, and had to fight 2 years to get his disability (the heart problem runs in both sides of his family). But even with both of our incomes, we are trying to get into senior housing, but now find out we make too much money, we can’t even get help from DSHS for food.

    We grew up as responsible middle income people, raising a family, and paying our bills, and now it all comes down to this. After being in the duplex we have rented for 20 years, we are pretty much being forced to move, because of who bought it (paying rent on time, keeping the place in great shape, yard work, etc.). So, now the shoe is on the other foot, and we are being discriminated against because of who we aren’t.

    There has to be something better that will come along, as it always does, but I am still waiting and looking.

  16. Vickie says:

    In my community, the general housing market is very tight, offering no handicapped accessible housing. The only ADA compliant apartments are in HUD buildings/projects designated as senior and/or disabled. These units have income limits, so that even though I qualify as a senior and as disabled (amputee), I am excluded as not meeting the income limit. What am I to do? Just not work so that I can have a roof over my head? Then why not just warehouse me until I die?

  17. Sister Patrice Colletti, SDS says:

    I am an Inclusion Coordinator at Bradley Crossing near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am also a professional with a disability. Affordable, accessible, inclusive housing is definitely in short supply here as well!

    The organization for which I work, JFS Housing, Inc., a subsidiary of Jewish Family Services, has created an amazing partnership with private investors, lenders, federal housing funders, local nonprofits, and city government to provide accessible affordable housing.

    But, the most unique thing is that it’s not just housing. It’s an innovative model of creating a vibrant “mini-neighborhood” that is inclusive. More than 50% of our neighbors here have disabilities. So are our staff. We are culturally diverse, language-diverse, religious-diverse, age-diverse, and socio-economically diverse as well.

    If I sound like I’m excited- I am! I’ve been part of making this happen and it’s a pretty innovative but, we hope, replicable.

    If you would like information on the model we are developing, please feel free to download an article at http://ge.tt/9qKRQVb/v/0?c .

    You can also reach me directly at pcolletti@bradleycrossing.org if you’d like additional information about our collaborative model of accessible, inclusive housing.

  18. Donna H. says:

    I have a disability also, but I have lupus, diabetes and high blood pressure and it it so hard trying to get housing. I do get SSI and I am on a waiting list and have been since 2005. I guess you just have to be lucky.

  19. Beth D. says:

    I too am searching for an accessible place to live. I have been disabled for 46 years from an auto accident. I have custody of my 11 year old grandson. We are HOMELESS in Colorado.

  20. Karen C. says:

    The system is set up to keep you down. My son has CP and had a very hard time finding employment. I worked with Mass Rehab, who just went through the motions of trying to find him work. His services where cut off as they said there was nothing more they could do for him, there are no work programs here in Massachusetts. The system is design to keep you down and dependent on the small check they give you. You can’t save any money to better your living conditions. There is no self respect sitting home doing nothing. Earn even a small amount and they cut your services. Who cares if you become homeless and starve? If I wasn’t alive, who knows what would happen to him? He makes not even $20,000 a year, which is too much for assistance, but not enough to live on. He needs to drive, needs car insurance, needs a place to live, needs to pay for heat and lights, the list goes on. When he didn’t work, he was bored, which lead to drinking. Like I said, the system keeps you down and out. There should be more for the disabled – give them work so they can live and be independent.

  21. Brenda L. says:

    Hi! I am a disabled Senior Citizen living in Greeley, CO. Greeley, CO has NO accessible houses either to buy or rent. There is one apartment complex in all of Greeley catering to Handicapped, Disabled, and low income seniors. My employment status is non-existent since I cannot work at the profession I used to engage in, which was Home Health Care. I cannot obtain a loan through regular lending institutions, also, the rent paid on this apartment is almost half what I make. I am being strangled very slowly, where finances are concerned. Oh, almost forgot, for the disabled apartment, there is a waiting list, a very, very long list to get an apartment there. I have been on the list since last September. I really would like to be in my own place, but, that does not seem possible. Not to say I am discouraged, but getting close. Thank you.

  22. Paula S. says:

    I think it’s very important that we have more houses, apartments, and dorms that are handicap accessible since there are many people like Mariah who have disabilities and who are otherwise capable of being on their own. Someone with her abilities shouldn’t have to live in a nursing home just because the accommodations aren’t available.

  23. Herman B. says:

    I live alone and two years ago I broke my ankle, spent two months in a nursing home and came home before I could put weight on my ankle. When I went to the post office to get my mail with an electric scooter, it was very difficult to get through the two doors to get to the counter. I said something to them, but to this day the post office in Wakarusa is inaccessible to wheelchairs.

  24. Dedria J. says:

    I hear you there. My daughter is almost 26 yrs old. She has a learning disability that’s never going to go away. She has two daughters, one is 4 and the other will be 3 in May. She’s going to college. She has no job because of the economy. The housing authority has told her she has to have a part-time job before they can help her, for the Section 8 program. She’s homeless. I help her out by letting her stay with me part-time, like 1 week at a time, but she desperately needs her own place ASAP.

  25. Brad C. says:

    Mariah,

    You are a inspiration!

  26. Thelma B. says:

    Thank you Karen for your love of helping others… I commend you on an excellent job. :o)

    Thelma

  27. Thelma B. says:

    As I read that inspiring story, it made me feel that I was that person, too. I didn’t to get to live on campus, but I did accomplish a dream to come true. The one thing that hurts me is that there is no funding for vehicles for person with disabilities who cannot afford to purchase a van that is equipped with all of your necessities. I have accomplished a lot in my life, but now I am in need of a van that will help me to get around better and possibly help me get a job. When you are not rich and don’t have any help, it is hard to do anything… But Mariah is a great inspiration to anyone who has a disability… :o) I’m very proud of the person she is and has become… I am proud of anyone who does not let their challenges stop them on their endeavors. Keep on pushing…

  28. Eagle says:

    I can (although very painful) “hobble” around my house, but require a wheelchair or my mobility scooter outside it. I suffer from CRPS/RSDS after wrecking my motorcycle for the second time. It’s extreme constant pain which never stops and is very debilitating! I would love to use my wheelchair in my current home but it is too small. There are elderly residential communities, why not build a community for disabled persons? There need to be more handicap accessible homes! They also need to enforce the so called “Handicap Accessible” areas such as bathrooms! What I mean by this is that some bathrooms post signs stating Handicap Accessible but are truly NOT! They need a larger minimum standard than they currently have!

  29. Monique D. says:

    I’m a single mother with 2 Autistic boys. The house where I used to live with them caught on fire, 3/6/13. I still can’t find an apartment to live with my boys. I would like to live in a decent and clean apartment, but it so difficult because of my race and skin color. I support that fight with all my heart.

  30. Lin L. says:

    I need a LOW-COST apt. without a lot of steps. I live on SSDI & have no cartledge in my right knee due to a car accident in 199. My leg got ripped apart due to the keys on my steering column, my ankle was broken from the gas pedal. I was told after 3 weeks I would NEVER walk again. I was pronounced DEAD 4 times, but after being revived- heck- never walk again? NO…I had a 9 month old baby. Yes, I limp a lot, can not run anymore, BUT I am able to walk (slowly) sometimes with my cane, but I just cannot find an affordable home with my physical & income limits.

    • Debbie says:

      My heart goes out to all. I as well was born 3 months early with upper respiratory problems. I was in and out of hospitals for the first 10 yrs. of my life. Then and now I have been a fighter to make it in life. I couldn’t get through college, they found out I have dyslexia and no one wanted to help me understand math. I was shy and embarrassed. Didn’t make friends much. When I was 19, I fell out of a car, tore cartledge in both knees. Doc. told my mom I would never walk again so she kept me on pain pills to sleep 24/7. After two wks, no meds, I made myself get up and slowly started walking again. I’m 51 yrs. old now and still cannot keep up with normal ppl walking. My ex-husband I stay with by choice. Disability pays me half of what I am used to making.

      13 yrs. ago I found out I had breast cancer, they did a biopsy. I went back to housecleaning, the only job I could do to make money. Then after 2 wks, the doc. took my breast, left me deformed. I went through 6 months of chemo, stared giving my own blood for reconstructive surgery and then, another downfall, was told I couldn’t use my own blood because I had contracted Hep C. from my husband. I went through 6 more months, once a week I gave myself a shot. I was hating my husband, but we had gotten a house together. I was pushing to keep working. 1 yr. later, I was ready for reconstructive surgery. I was already depressed and exhausted due to not having the time to heal due to my ex-husband not working all the time. I woke up and found out my breast had been faulty, so I had no breast. I went in again to have them fix this and they made me wait for more surgery 6 months later. The doc boosted that up, I complained but that didn’t help. I lived 13 yrs with a deformed breast. My ex-husband was of no support. Back up the 13 yrs, I was rear-ended by a van. That really messed up my head and nerves for yrs. I was put on a doc’s treatment and disability. Now the 13 yr. old breast implant was falling to the side, going into my ribs. I found a doc. to redo the reconstruction again. I have COPD, asthma, post traumatic stress disorder with anxiety-panic attacks that before meds I felt like I was having blackouts then it got worse and it felt like heart attacks. Now I’m fighting Medicaid. They have me on share of cost $536.00 and I get a couple more hundred than that trying to live. I can’t pay the 20% or meet the share of cost. I wrote the governor of FL., so I feel for those in need. I’m stuck with a man I don’t love who doesn’t take my disability seriously and can’t afford to go live on my own.

  31. Angelina R. says:

    Mariah,

    Thanks. Please keep talking and writing. You have hit so many REAL points of such importance! The need for accessible, affordable housing is huge in Florida. There’s little understanding of Olmstead and consequently independently living is virtually unattainable for many. Your feelings are justified and shared by more people than you can imagine. I guess you’ve started a “fight” – you can count me in. Have a wonderful Ms. Wheelchair year and make lots of noise. Angelina

  32. Joseph K. says:

    I’m Joseph K., US Army ssgt. I’m living in Rome, Italy. I’d like to get me my own house because I don’t have my own house yet.

  33. Erika says:

    I am also wheelchair bound and live in San Antonio. I went to Texas A&M University and found the best accessible dorms during my stay, but I like you am now stuck back at home with my parents. I love my home becuase it was built for me, but would love nothing more than to live out on my own in my own apartment, but San Antonio is not very handicap friendly at all. Additionally, some of the places that are fully accessible state that you must be receiving SSI Disability, but I’m working full-time for our great state of Texas, so I do not qualify for SSI Disability and therefore do not qualify for the housing options that are actually fully accessible that I would need.

    • Thelma B. says:

      Hello Erika. I understand what you are talking about. Here in Greenville, we don’t have any houses that are handicap accessible. I live in a handicapped apartment, but it is not really handicapped accessible except the bathroom, the rest is normal range, and I am in a motorized wheelchair. I have to stand up to the cabinets when I need something or have someone to get it down. I have a regular stove, sink and refrigerator, too. I too wish I could find a house that could meet all of my needs. Don’t get me wrong, the apartment is nice to a point but someone lives over my head and that can get to be rough at times. Nothing is sound proof around here. Wish you the best. When they build houses they don’t think that we as individuals would like to have our own someday… :o) Anyway, I pray all goes well with you on your journey…

    • Thelma B. says:

      I forgot to say that I live in Greenville, NC and they don’t have any handicapped houses; but they do have handicapped apartments, but with limited income you can’t really afford them. They are in the process of building apartments for seniors 55 and older. I qualify for them, but one thing they told me is that they don’t accept Section 8, which is a program that helps me to afford where I am at now. I wish I could get one, then I wouldn’t have to worry about loud noises over my head or outside my door. Just wanted to share this with you!! :)

    • Sim says:

      @Erika, unless those accessible apartments are subsidized housing and/or are income restricted residences, they should not have turned you away for not having SSDI. If you are in a wheelchair, the leasing agents/landlords can see that you may need accessible housing (regardless of whether you have SSDI or not), and so if you were turned away, then that’s possibly grounds for filing a complaint of discrimination.

      Also, under the Fair Housing law, housing providers are required to “accommodate a person with a disability by changing or modifying a rule, policy, or practice when doing so is necessary to give the disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy his or her unit”, meaning for example that if you wanted to rent an apartment and have it modified at your own expense (to widen the door or install grab bars in the bathroom), the landlord can’t refuse to rent to you. Check out a quick summary Fair Housing info from HUD: http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/FairHousing/Housing_People_with_Disabilities/

      Knowledge is Power! Best of luck to you :-)

  34. Karen says:

    I support more access for people with learning or physical disabilities. My adult daughter has an intellectual disability and I worked as a Para-educator with students with a variety of Disabilities, including students with cerebral palsy. As a parent and as a Para-educator, I will never stop advocating for equal access.

    • Thelma B. says:

      Thank you Karen for being a caring person and I commend you on an excellent job you are doing!!! :)

      Thelma

    • Thelma B. says:

      I meant commend you on an excellent job and being dedicated to your profession.

      - Thelma