Why is universal accessibility important for housing?
Because the design of our homes profoundly affects our health.

We asked people, "How does the lack of accessible homes and/or the unaffordability/unattainability of an ideal home affect your health?"

Some notable answers are below. Add yours here.

I live on the side of a hill and this forces me to use my vehicle to go anywhere, even though there is a grocery store 200 meters away… downhill. Less exercise equals less quality of life. Accessible housing within walking distance of most things is expensive. Moving further out of town usually lowers housing costs but raises commute costs and makes everything else with a disability more difficult.

Lyn, Chula Vista, California

We had to buy our first home above budget because the selection was so limited for homes that we could make accessible. The lack of universal design limits one’s options. We’ve since sold that home and built a way more accessible one.

About other people’s homes, it sucks when all your younger cousins and friends buy split level homes because that’s what all the local builders have been building for decades because they are an easy sell as “starter homes.”

Tyler, Elk River, Minnesota

Most don’t understand what ACCESS really means and how it impacts the independence and autonomy of individuals with disabilities. Lack of accessible housing impacts EVERY aspect of life – from mental health and feelings of isolation – to safety entering/exiting the home or bathrooms – to the foods we are able to prepare in our kitchens!

Reveca, Illinois

It is a stress-inducing situation that constantly creates a number of health issues. It was not until I actually gained more access in and out of the house that my health truly got better. My mental well being went up and I felt worth more than I had felt before. Coming home from my injury made me very depressed, but I kept hoping, praying and figuring out how to change things. I can only imagine how much easier life would have been with things already in place.

Physically, my body only got stronger and healthier from moving around. Being sedentary kept my health down. I lost muscle mass, lacked energy, spent a lot of time doing little to engage with others, and became a recluse. This all impacted the mental aspects of my condition. It was a vicious cycle until we managed to change the living conditions.

The added stress of the financial burden also contributed to my depression. Millions of Americans stress over keeping their families fed or safe, making sure bills are paid, etc. Throw in the financial impact of making a home accessible, it’s like a ticking time bomb. Unless you have money to have a home custom built, you are stuck with the limited options. That is no way anyone should have to live.

James, Hanover, MD

Accessibility is the difference between living comfortably and constantly struggling with pretty much everything. I lived in that situation seven years and it totally sucked. Trapped indoors, unable to exit without assistance. Unable to shower. Unable to use the toilet. Unable to cook without fear of cutting yourself or burning yourself. Thick carpeting feeling like quicksand. Simple things like navigating tight areas, narrow hallways, door thresholds complicate life unnecessarily. The stress is very unhealthy.
Your home should be the one place in this world where you cannot only be safe and comfortable but also do all the things for yourself that you should be doing. Inaccessibility makes you feel more disabled than you actually are. When it comes to disability, your home should be the great equalizer – where your disability doesn’t matter.

Ed, Salisbury, Massachusetts

It makes me depressed and suicidal sometimes. I wish I could live a “normal” life.

Desiree, Anchorage, Alaska

It lowers your self-confidence in being able to do things for yourself if it doesn’t meet your needs.

Kay, Perth, Australia

All the inaccessible things around me were tearing apart relationships with my girlfriend and my family. So with her income, we moved into an accessible apartment. My life was 100 times better not only for us but for my family; we starting talking and visiting again. Eventually, I gained enough strength being on my own and was independent enough to go to work.

I worked for 10 years, but my wife and I got divorced, so I moved back to my hometown. There are virtually no jobs for individuals with disabilities, so I am now living back with parents. I would love to have my own house built the way I need. Part of my depression stems from inaccessibility and still having to rely on others.

In today’s market, rent and housing prices are simply unaffordable for someone that only has social security disability income to live on. Buying or building a house would be the best for all of us, but most of us can’t afford that, so we’re stuck. It seems like we are in a neverending battle. I do hope to overcome it and own my own accessible home. Money is the biggest hurdle.

Jeff, Erie, Kansas

Loose carpeting makes me not want to move around much. Kitchen cabinetry that isn’t within reach means I’m either dependent upon my able-bodied fiancé, or we keep things in a cluttered mess in the cabinets I can reach. The shower head is also out of reach, etc.
Of course all of these things can be fixed with enough money, but that’s not an immediate option. I live with the frustration, potential hand/wrist damage, risk of having things fall on me as I sit on the very edge of my chair and reach for them, and occasional shortness with the love of my life over stupid things that I should be able to do but can’t because of the lack of accessibility in my own home.
Oh, and there could be a point made for how a lack of accessibility in my friends’ homes affects my social life/stress levels. Why do construction companies like to use such tiny bathroom doors!?

Yvonne, Independence, Oregon

Many of us get complacent with “less than accessible” features of homes/apartments and to make do unnecessarily. We sacrifice time, energy, and safety to compensate. The lack of affordability and already accessible homes is an emotional hurdle for those of us who would like the security and long-term comfort of a place designed for our needs, but realistically cannot afford this “luxury.”

Your home should be your sanctuary and a place where you can rest and renew for what the world brings you each day. My home affects aspects of my daily life that others don’t generally consider. Having a roll-in shower greatly impacts my ability to thoroughly cleanse and protect my skin, but in the rental market, these are rare. Spacious bathrooms and bedrooms with non-carpeted floors allow for the Tetris game that is living with mobility equipment, but these things are generally seen as “privileges” or upgrades.

Finding, affording, and moving into an accessible place is often overwhelming and provides a true test of patience and resilience. As someone who enjoys living in new cities, I have “made do” in spaces that made my daily life more difficult and time-consuming. Inaccessibility greatly affects my quality of life and my mental and physical health.

Brook, Portland, Oregon

Emotionally, it embarrasses me. I don’t have an accessible bathroom, so somebody has to get my toothbrush for me and I have to do bed baths. Financially, it makes it hard because we are hiring people to help take care of me that we otherwise wouldn’t need.

Jacquelyn, Grand Haven, Michigan

It affects the whole family. I was lucky to get a partially adapted property, but have to move again as we discovered that the property isn’t suitable for my needs. We have another move hanging over our heads, only 7 months after the last.

Claire, United Kingdom

Some of the smallest things can have such a huge impact on someone’s health. Smaller doorways can cause injuries to hands and skin just trying to squeeze through them. A bathroom that doesn’t have a shower you can access can cause terrible skin issues that can lead to infections and costly wounds. Sponge baths just aren’t the same as a shower and basins that are used over and over harbor bacteria. Sometimes that can be deadly. Sometimes it can be costly to treat.

When thresholds between rooms are not the same height, even a small rise to get into another room can be impossible for someone with little upper body strength and/or arthritis in their hands. Then people get weaker and not stronger because they can’t get from room to room to do things for themselves. Everyone else has to do it for them, which means less independence and more caregiver needs.

Caregivers are usually family members that have to move in with the disabled person(s). In our case, my sister and I had to move into my parent’s small house and now we are all tripping over each other. There is not near enough room for all the medical equipment and everything else. Our family has always been close but the stress has taken a toll on everyone. Stress will create all kinds of medical issues.

It’s financially devastating to everyone involved. My sister and I both have to work. My husband stays at our home because there is no room for him here. Same with my sister. So then marriages are now affected and cause more stress. And now we are also trying to pay caregivers because of the lack of resources. 24-hour care is expensive!

My parents were both independent. My dad had his own successful business. They were only 63 y/o when everything happened. And now people are in their small home upsetting their routine they have had all of their lives. They hate it. My dad can no longer work. The business it took him 30 years to build was no longer going to exist. He was devastated. His lifetime of savings almost gone within one year because of all the medical stuff they both need.

There are so many things that are affected.

Tanya, USA

Not having an accessible home also costs lots of additional time just to get showered, dressed, etc. The loss of time means less time to do the things you love and can also prevent you from socializing as much which definitely affects your physical, mental and emotional well being.

David, USA