Disability and Homes (Originally Published in New Dreamhomes and Condominiums Magazine)

Open House signs for dream homes and condos are all over the city for most people who can get to them. What about if you cannot get to them? What happens when you are looking for a dream home and your sight, your hearing, your chair, your cane…prevents you from climbing those stairs or even reaching the newly renovated cabinets?

Don Barrie, an Independent Living Consumer knows this experience well. Currently he rents and when he first moved into his downtown apartment, the entire bathroom had to be remodeled for Barrie and his chair.

“Where I live is a rented apartment,” says Barrie. “I remember six months after moving in, the whole bathroom needed to be refurbished because it was not accessible. There was a tub and people had to be very careful about transferring me from my chair to the shower stall. I moved out of the tub to the shower stall from the left side of walking in there and the sink was moved to the centre of the room. It required me to leave the unit for a couple of days.”

Barrie has experience with how important it is for people with disabilities to live independently. Living in a comfortable and accessible home can really make a difference.

Five years ago, Barrie would help people with disabilities find homes and condos that were accessible by working with the Centre for Indepdent Living in Toronto (CILT).

“Sometimes we would get accessbile houses and condos up for sale,” Barrie says. “They would not come up very often. When they did appear, what I would do is help publicize them on the web and the 24-hour phone line called the “News Line. It was very rare though.”

So what makes a home accessible?

“If it was a bungalow, or with another level there would be an elevator installed. Even if it was a basement. Many years ago I had a friend who lived in Scarborough and there was an elevator to take him to the basement when it was installed upstairs.”

Focusing on the fact that accessible dream homes and condos were rare to find in Barrie’s position with CILT, he thinks there needs to be more of them out there.

“The ones that do exist they do not get publized that much and most people do not know about them. Five years ago when I worked at CILT I knew about them. I know about somebody that had a condo and it was newly built when it was purchased and there were a lot of things that he could access himself like furnishings. Might still need someone to come and assist you though, does not mean you can do everything by yourself, but it makes it easier.”

Barrie also notes that finding an accessible dream home or dream condo is not just about the home itself. There are other factors that make the dream come alive.

“Right now you want to be able to find a place where you are integrated in the community, that goes without saying. Where I live for example, the friend I talked about earlier, he lives with his family with the elevator.”

Don feels a part of the community he lives in and he lives downtown.

With the majority of people with a disability requiring affordable housing and the cost of home ownership in Toronto is high, many issues need to be faced to ensure that this group of Canadians can have their dreams come true through owning a home. Without stable incomes and sometimes having to rely on government support – this makes home ownership a distant goal. Barrie knows people who have done it…like many dreams – they can be possible.


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