I’ve never felt like a minority. I mean obviously, as a woman, I guess I am. But in this day and age, with all the strides women have made, I’ve never suffered due to my gender like my mother or grandmother did. I’ve never been discriminated against. Until now.
Not because I’m a woman. But because I’m handicapped.
I got lucky when I found the apartment I live in now. I didn’t really think about it. Just placed a call and went to look at it, like I always did during an apartment search. Sure, I took a couple of doors off their hinges and installed a bar in the bathroom, but that was it. Oh, and there was carpet in the bedroom. That lasted about two weeks until I asked the landlord to put in tile. She was pretty accommodating. I realize that now.
Several months ago, I was introduced to and seemed to hit it off with a particular property owner. I loved the place, had offered to pay for a ramp and could move in when she needed a tenant. She took my card and I started saving boxes. Then I never heard from her again.
Like it or not, I have become an undesirable tenant. I’m neat, quiet, responsible and will most likely make lots of betterments to a property. My rent is on time and I’ve never lived less than three years in any one spot. But I’m not ideal. Some people just can’t get past the wheelchair.
A friend of mine (also in a wheelchair) complained about her own difficulties. While trying to rent at Ocean’s Edge in Jacksonville Beach she discovered they don’t have a single accessible condo. Not one!
Outside, there are steps to the front door of each unit (even those on the first floor) and inside, there are sunken living rooms. This seems to discriminate by age as well as ability. You can’t tell me people over the age of 70 want to be scaling a four-inch drop every time they want a snack from the fridge! This all makes the handicapped parking a bit of a joke. Each disabled space is neatly ramped — to nowhere. Unless you want to tour the front sidewalk. Since they renovated as recently as 2008, they’re definitely in violation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines. My friend’s in the process of filing a formal complaint, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’ll be homeless come July.
I thought we’d found a solution for her when my own neighbor was renting his downstairs apartment. I was relieved it was someone I knew and we could, therefore, bypass the issue of dependability. Of course my friend is reliable! The neighbor’s met me numerous times. It’s harder to discriminate against someone you know, right? Harder maybe, but not impossible. My girlfriend and I waited hours for him to come over as promised. Then I called and left a message. No response.
Is it that landlords think they’re going to have to make lots of expensive alterations? Often, it only requires a ramp and most disabled people I know are happy to pay for it. Besides, there are lots of organizations that build them for free. (Click here.)
Is it the liability? Personally, I was a much bigger liability when I was an able-bodied partier in my twenties.
Either way, it feels rotten. And it’s just one more difficulty to add to the list in an already obstacle filled life. We’re not called “challenged” for nothing. You might make a difference to someone. Think about it.