Accessibility expert lives in an inaccessible home


Rollstuhl Farfler’s 3-wheel wheelchair, 1655. Public domain.

bootcamp2015-small 2In which I admit that my commitment to accessibility is not without limits.

There’s a limit to how far I’m prepared to plan ahead. Making my home safe, shareable and secure is as far as I’m willing to go at this stage.

One day I may need a walker or a wheelchair. That’s on the cards for someone who lives to 99. Does that mean I’m planning to make my home wheelchair accessible? No way. Not possible.

Hills, stairs and storeys

It so happens that the apartment I love is on a hill, up some stairs, and two storeys high. Worse, it’s an art deco building with walls made of nine-inch thick reinforced concrete. Any attempt to widen the doorways would be ill-advised for engineering and aesthetic reasons.

There’s a paradox here. In my professional life, accessibility looms large. My company audits websites for accessibility and trains writers to make their digital content accessible to everyone, including readers with disabilities of any sort—for example of vision, hearing, mobility or other physical problems. But when I need a wheelchair-accessible home, I’ll have to move.

This place is unfixable

Sometimes I stare out the window and visualise lifts. Or drone-delivery to my rooftop deck. Or beam-me-up-Scotty teleportation. They’re all equally improbable ways of conveying an old lady upstairs, given the type of building I live in.

All the more reason to get cracking on all the other boot camp challenges. As the apartment has its intransigent challenges, I’ll need to be in top form.

When it’s time to move, I’ll move. That’ll be at least 10 if not 20 years hence—and I sincerely hope, never.

12 thoughts on “Accessibility expert lives in an inaccessible home

  1. Joared says:

    “One day I may need a walker or a wheelchair. That’s on the cards for someone who lives to 99”.

    At what age do you think these needs actually occur? I hope for you, as I do for myself, that I’ll never have reason to need to use a walker or a wheelchair even if I reach 99 or above. Having provided therapy services for many years to individuals who have had such needs I can say they’ve all been much younger than 99 — in fact, adults of every age, but older adults mostly 50 yrs and upward. *smile*

    If your intent is to “live in place” in an apartment or house, other than a retirement community or facility of some sort, then I commend you for already recognizing and being mentally prepared to accept that should some unexpected (aren’t they all, usually!) circumstance occur you would have to move from your present abode. After all, in some respects life can be a bit of a gamble, so we make our best guesstimate and ‘takes our chances.’

    1. I think you are reading me correctly. I have no idea when these legs will let me down and am happy not to know.

      1. Val says:

        They might NEVER let you down. And at absolutely any age you could fall over and break your leg and need a wheelchair, or a ground floor living space.How is your health now? How was the health of your immediate family (parents, grandparents)? How long did they live for? What sorts of conditions took them off? Those are the things that are more likely to tell you a possible future.

      2. I agree! Based on all the evidence I expect to carry on dancing, walking over hills and swimming for many years. So you are spot on. And frankly I am not a bit worried. But a year ago I did think ahead. Thank you, Val.

  2. Bernadette says:

    I like the beam me up Scotty option. I wish someone would get to work on it.

    1. All we have to do is live long enough for someone to perfect it.

  3. I’m with you. Right now we live on two floors. We could install a glider on the stairs but most likely we will move when necessary. A while back a woman worked with me who had an obscure disease under the MS umbrella. Her disability was progressive and eventually she was bed and/or wheelchair bound. The unfortunate part was that her house was not easy to manage. The front door was a flight up from street level although she could enter from the rear alley except when it was snowed in. She had some adjustments made with the aid of a service for the disabled but it was still hard. I haven’t seen her in a while. The worst news was that the condition was hereditary and her two sons had it. My husband is in his mid-70s but healthier than men half his age. He rides his bike about 100 miles a week but it only takes one incident to topple the applecart and age doesn’t really matter. Here’s to living a long, healthy life and then just dropping dead.

    1. Yes, some houses lend themselves to modifications and some are terminally stubborn. I adore my flat and reward it with flowers and compliments. That’s got to count, right? And so does fate.

  4. All you can do at this stage is be in the best shape (physically and mentally) possible. You do have some hard decisions to make as you grow older. I like the ‘pie in the sky’ options you propose!

  5. Aunt Beulah says:

    You spoke for me with this post, Rachel. Your last line, “When it’s time to move, I’ll move. That’ll be at least 10 if not 20 years hence—and I sincerely hope, never,” is my motto; though my husband calls it sticking my head in the sand.

    1. I call it optimism. And I remember that expectations influence our quality of life. Ostrich to ostrich? Fine by me.

  6. Robyn Haynes says:

    You know, I’ve never even considered this until I had a fall recently and broke a rib. I was rendered entirely dependent on others – awful insight into a possible future. I guess its something we need to look at seriously as we get older.

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