Breaking barriers: home is where the heart is

My name is Raux, and I have a disability. This is the sixth in a weekly series about living with a disability in a community like Cranbrook

My name is Raux, and I have a disability. This is the sixth in a weekly series about living with a disability in a community like Cranbrook.

Your home is your sanctuary, where you can leave the rest of the world on the welcome mat; it can be difficult to nest and truly make a home yours in a rental. My own goals include building a home that is suited to my needs and design aesthetic. In the meantime, I am working hard to save up and plan for the day I will reach this dream.

Renting: In Cranbrook there are only a few places that offer wheelchair accessible suites – Abbott Gardens, Sonja’s Gardens and Baker Gardens. You can apply for these through the Canadian Mental Health Association. If you are lucky, you may find houses or apartments that will work as is or require minor adjustments. Landlords can be very understanding and accommodating if you don’t require major renovation.

Buying: Accessible homes needing no adjustments are few and far between in our small community, especially as one person’s needs may not be the same as the next person. If you find one, consider carefully the costs to renovate other homes before passing it up. Barrier-free, wheelchair accessible, elevator and walkout are key words that can make a home stand out from other listings and let you know that there is an accessible entry. From there you can determine if the layout offers enough space for your furniture and equipment; the bathroom may be the deciding factor, as changes could be minor or major.

Social housing: Creating a community of people that have the need for support, understanding and accessibility. We all worry about things in our lives: things we have to do, things we plan to do, things we cannot control. One thing we shouldn’t have to worry about is the care of our loved ones who have special needs. We carry this worry our whole lives, their whole lives, and we may have to trust that strangers will care as much for them when we can no longer manage on our own.

It is not only my dream to build my own home but I would also like to build a home for my community that includes private accessible suites with shared common areas on the main floor and private suites upstairs for live-in care aids. I want this to be a home, not a facility. I’d like to take away the burden of worry by creating an environment to grow old in your home—this model can also work for hospice care and/or accessible travel accommodations.

Independence is important for everyone and sometimes we only have it for a short time. This idea of social housing would allow people who want the privacy of their own space with the security and flexibility of having help when you need it, not scheduled weeks in advance when you assume you’ll need it. Creating a community of others that would benefit from this system allows them to combine and share resources that they would otherwise have to manage on their own and their care aids would have to supplement their income with other clients if one person alone cannot guarantee full-time hours. Having neighbours who understand each other’s challenges creates a built-in support system as well, should they choose to participate.

Pets: The value of a companion is priceless, particularly for people that are shut-in. I understand why landlords often refuse pets; however, exceptions should be made in some cases. I have no problem paying a deposit or signing an agreement to cover any damage caused by my pet while I’m living in their rental unit. I honestly believe any and every responsible pet owner would agree with me on this. If they, like me, feel their pet is the exception and has never/will never cause damage to the property then why not put your money where your mouth is and agree to take full responsibility? Would a prescription recommending this is in the patient’s best interest make this more acceptable?

Home is where the heart is. We may struggle at times to find our place in society and having your own little corner of the world to recharge is a necessity. Independence is something we often take for granted; from when we learned to tie our shoelaces to getting your first apartment, nothing is more exhilarating than doing something on your own because you can.

Sincerely, Raux