A month ago, my husband and I were told that the condo we rent was going to be sold. It was a “big picture” idea, yet, within the week, real estate photos were taken and it is now only a couple of days from being listed. Thus, we began looking for housing immediately.
We found it much faster than we anticipated, thank God! And… we move in one week! With the search came a reflection on what I look for in a potential home, particularly in regards to accessibility. I’m moved several times in the last few years so I have my checklist down to a tee, and that’s what I wanted to share with you today.
So, while I continue packing, enjoy this list of six things I look for in an accessible home.
Sidewalks are essential for safe travel as a blind woman. While there are techniques for areas without sidewalks, it is much easier when they are available and in proper condition [which includes being adequately paved and cleared of obstructions]. Sidewalks give me a parameter of safety and a means to gauge my distance from the traffic. They keep me oriented to intersections, side roads, driveways and building entrances, and they provide a straight line for my guide dog to follow as he guides me along the street.
II. Audible Signals
Chirp chirp! Cuckoo, cuckoo!
It’s not impossible to cross streets without audible signals. But it makes it a heck of a lot easier to do so with them. Particularly in busy intersections or ones where a driver’s view of pedestrians may be inhibited, audible signals give me an extra level of comfort and assurance that I’m crossing when it’s safe to do so. Blind and visually impaired people learn to cross streets by listening to the direction of the flow of traffic [parallel to you or perpendicular] which indicates when it’s safe to cross. This is the foundation for safe travel. Audible signals are just a helpful addition.
III. Close Proximity to Transit Stops
In a larger city, this is a bit easier to manage, yet I have been in situations where transit stops are either too far away, in unsafe areas or don’t provide service very frequently. Since transit is a primary means of navigation for the blind, it’s often a necessity to find housing close to bus stops or exchanges. However, in lieu of nearby transit, I try to keep within walking distance of most amenities so that I can maintain my independence.
IV. Ensuite Laundry
In the home that I now refer to as the Spider House, I had to share the laundry room with my landlords. For me, this meant exiting my suite via the side door, following the wall halfway around the house, unlocking the door to the garage, turning right into the laundry room and finally, actually doing my laundry. With arms full of a laundry basket, fiddling with keys and doors and of course, not knowing if/when my landlords needed the machines, it was a stress I vowed to eliminate in all future residences.
But while this “necessity” which I learned from practical experience can be quite the challenge, it doesn’t always have to be as obvious a barrier, depending on the setup of the home and laundry area. In my husband’s and my new condo, laundry is shared; there are two laundry rooms on the first floor. While it is not my preference, it will be workable with a few accommodations. I plan to ask the building manager if I can mark the machines tactically to differentiate the buttons, and we are planning to purchase a hamper with a lid and wheels so that the chance of losing a sock in the hallway will be limited on transit to and from the laundry room.
V. Secure Windows
I have a phobia of bugs… and of course, a desire to feel safe. One aspect to a home I always ensure to examine carefully are the doors and windows, particularly the seals and the screens. Are they tight? Are there holes? Could bugs get in? It isn’t only a fear-based–it’s practical; as a blind woman, it’s a matter of ensuring my safety. As a vulnerable member of society on two counts, my home must be a place where I feel secure, and while locks and other security measures are certainly valid considerations, it’s a good idea to check other means of access to you and your personal space.
VI. Room for My Guide Dog
A guide dog’s job is primarily performed outside the home–guiding their handler along streets, across intersections, in buildings, etc-it’s essential that they have a home environment which makes them feel safe and comfortable. Dogs are adaptable creatures and don’t require much accommodation, but since becoming a guide dog handler, I’ve tried to ensure that there is enough space for a couple of beds and room for them to play and get a bit of exercise. If possible, it’s nice to have a fenced-in backyard or secure, outdoor play area where they can run to let off their zoomies, but I have found this difficult to come by as a renter. Therefore, I try to ensure with any potential living situation that there is adequate space for my dog to play and relax while at home.
What things do you look for when moving to a new place? Tell me your experiences in the comments.