A Home of My Own
A few months ago I daydreamed what it would be like to live in a place adapted to my rheumatoid arthritis and physical disabilities. It was during a time when my husband and I were exploring the possibility of purchasing a home after being long-time renters. I wasn’t sure we would find a home right for us and I was very certain that it would be a long search.
But what did I know! We found the perfect home in the first day we went out as prospective home buyers! Sure, before that was some dabbling and a lot of web searching, but nothing was as right for us as the place we saw and ended up buying.
Our condo is on the ground floor—meaning no need for an elevator for my wheelchair. This is especially meaningful as my husband first encountered me when I was getting liberated from a broken elevator in the apartment where we met. I emerged angry and cursing up a storm—but he said to himself that was a lady he needed to get to know. While a broken elevator brought us together, we have no need for them now!
Our home has lots of rolling space for my wheelchair and a beautiful patio on a courtyard garden. But the idea I most appreciate is that we are gradually making changes that accommodate my disability and make our place truly our home.
How to make a home accessible for someone living with RA and disability
First we carefully planned where all the furniture would be placed to help with my access, but also with my ability to get around in my wheelchair. The day we moved we had to alter our plans a bit, but not much because Richard had measured and planned things out so well.
In the bathroom, we brought in a higher toilet seat and installed a new shower bench that allows me to slide into the tub easily for showering. At the front door, we installed a new lever handle that would be easier for me to open. And at the patio door, we purchased some metal ramps that allow me to get outside. Richard was even able to widen the opening of the sliding door so that I could pass easier.
Always crucial is just the planning and the thinking—placing items where I can reach them and minimize unnecessary effort. These all may seem like little things, but they matter hugely for quality of life. With a little tinkering, I can get into our new home easier, enjoy the patio, and scoot around the whole place in my wheelchair.
While inside our home is most important, we also purchased this place because of the community and neighborhood. A huge selling point was that the building has a pool where I can do my aqua exercises—increasing access and frequency. Accessibility also includes being able to manage the commute to and from work, and we researched bus options to make sure this location would fit. And within walking distance is a huge grocery store, restaurants, park, and all the neighborhood amenities we prize.
In the future, I imagine that we may want to make changes to the kitchen and the bathroom for increasing accessibility for me. But for now the spaces work well and we are just so pleased to have them, along with the opportunity to customize as we may want or need in the future. While renting worked well for a long time, it is a liberating feeling to have more say over my home and to be able to make it more accessible for my physical needs.
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