Relocating while disabled

At present I’m trying to move homes, and is it ever a trying experience. There’s the disappointment on finding out a place that was looking promising is inaccessible. There’s the need to determine whether it’s going to be viable for me to walk to the nearest bus stop (or to the next one, much further down the road, but that’s more central, or that one a couple of streets over that has a regular express bus – where do I make the trade off?). There’s the great big vortex of spoon drain as plans and calculations and discussions are made and had until I’m really not sure how much I’ve absorbed. And, of course, there’s the going to look at homes, by the end of which I’m usually in a bad, bad place with all the standing and the walking and the travelling. I’m just about at the end of my tether when it comes to looking for a new place to live, to be frank!

And it’s lucky that I’m staying in in my lovely city, because moving away can present lots of problems for PWD. For instance, where to find a decent doctor? Can one get all the services one needs? What new problems might there be to encounter? I’ve also been a fair bit frustrated by how few wheelchair accessible places seem to be coming up. While I’m not a wheelchair user myself, I can only imagine how difficult it can be trying to find a new home that you can get into, on top of all the other difficulties in finding somewhere new!

What are some problems you’ve encountered in moving home while disabled?

Cross-posted at ZatB.

By 8 April, 2010.    life changes, small stories   



10 Comments

  1. My second-last move was a problem for me because I have trouble going down stairs due to my balance problems (which were at their worst ever, right then). I can hold onto the wall or banister and edge my way down, but not if I’m holding something that is taking up both my hands or blocking the view. I was moving out of a third storey flat and I had to carry my stuff out of the flat one plastic shopping bag at a time. Luckily, I didn’t have much stuff! Not a huge problem in the grand scheme of things, but I was so sick of staggering up and down those stairs!

    My last move was from an area with okay daytime public transport to an area with no public transport, and I had to learn to drive, at age 26. Much of rural Australia would be a big no-go for someone who couldn’t drive, unfortunately.

  2. Moving is for me one of the worst things I can do – after my last move I got so ill I couldn’t move any of my body, or speak. Absolutely terrifying.

    I was fortunate enough with this move that someone else (my work) was finding a house for me. But it did mean educating them in the way in which people with an invisible disability still need accessible housing. ‘Invisible’ =/= ‘imaginary’. “Yes, it IS a lovely flat, perfect in *nearly* every way. But as I told you BEFORE you made me climb the steep stairs, if I was to live here, on bad days I would be even more trapped in the flat than is necessary.”

    The other problem I have encountered is with removalists (again, so, so fortunate that I had them, to have this problem with.) My first move with my disability, most of the time they were there, I was unable to stand around and actively supervise. They did things like leave all my pictures on the wall, and made jokes about the mess in my study. I was so ill I could barely stand. This had been explained to them as being the reason for the move. When they left and I realised how much I still had to pack myself, despite PAYING someone to do it, I wasted precious spoons weeping. Also, being female didn’t help with that particular firm. I don’t know that they truly realised there were disability issues going on. I have a strong suspicion that my requests and opinions were written off because they were coming from a woman loooong before they had a chance to be written off because they were coming from a PWD. Needless to say, I’ve not used them again.

    I guess the single biggest problem for me is getting the people around me to understand what an appallingly huge deal it is. Not ‘a pain’, not ‘a really big few days’ but rather ‘if I am not extremely careful we’ll have to figure out where the hospital is in this town.’

    @lilacsigil – Oh yes, indeedy. I learnt to drive aged 24 for that precise reason. Hope the driving is going well!

  3. I’m currently engaged in a long drawn-out process of moving in with my partner – for ages there’d been a hospitalization or a redundancy or some other crisis making me put it off, and now I’m being slow because I’m exhausted, enormously stressed, and finding it hard to deal with arranging a new GP and pharmacist.

    I’ve had so many bad experiences with primary care doctors that I hope to rely on them for medical advice as little as possible (I’d sooner phone my specialist), but I require so many medications, supplements, syringes and dressings that I must form a good relationship with a good surgery, health centre and pharmacy in order to orchestrate the regular prescription and delivery of the stuff I need.

    And having had a horrendous experience with my last pharmacy and just moved to a brilliant, helpful one a year ago, I’m really not looking forward to losing their good service now that I’m moving towns.

    Another aspect of this is that for a long time, my mother was my carer and organised the vast majority of this stuff. When we had trouble with our previous pharmacy, she was the one who dealt with their nastiness and incompetence. Now I’m going to have to work out how to handle that kind of stuff myself, and it’s freaking me out. :/

  4. I’ve been looking forward to moving out of my current apartment for a long time. Although moving is very stressful and involves a lot of emotional strain (last time I moved I ended up not speaking to my mother for six months), the geography of the place where I live is bad for my health. When I moved in, my asthma was quite bad and my legs were weak, but improving. I had thought that going up two flights of stairs daily would be “good for me”. I have since managed to make a mental shift towards considering the asthma as much a chronic illness as the arthritis. Now I insist upon a place that doesn’t cause me pain to get in and out of.

    I live in a city that’s very hilly, which does not make things easier. A ground-floor apartment that’s a short walking distance from the buses I need to ride every day is rare. One that fits all my other qualifications (mostly sensible!) and also does not cost more than we can afford, that is starting to look impossible. I comfort myself with lofty ideas such as “not walking 20 minutes to the bus station” and “being able to take out the garbage without hyperventilating”. I’m putting off thinking about the actual packing and moving. *Shudder*

  5. Actually, roomie & I are looking for viable places in the Philly area, some current concerns – Can we get to the bus, can the bus go where we need it to, how do we move our shit (as neither of us drives, he has anxiety issues and I’ve visual issues), I’m hoping for somewhere without a lot of stairs, because if (when, really) my back decides it wants to throw itself again I can’t go up them. I can go down them with a lot of pain (at least the last time), but up is not possible. Heat is another problem – I can’t do heat for some godforsaken reason, can’t sleep when it’s warm. Seems to be lately anything above 40 or 50 degrees and it’s way too damn hot – meanwhile, he can’t sleep with the noise of any fans, the electric sounds drives him up the wall, he just sorta lays there. So we’re trying to find a basement room for the heat issue at the moment, since we’re stuck on the poorer end of the spectrum. Jobs are a biggie – will I be able to find work when I get there, cuz people loath the ada laws and I’ve visual issues. Neither of us are neurotypical, so there’s the ‘first impression’ hurdles as well.

  6. Heh, forgot to add, the whole reason we’re moving is to find decent healthcare.

  7. I’ve moved six times in the last year, mostly due to my disability. I took an internship in another state for the summer, moved there for the summer, moved home (for all of a month), and moved to the university I attend (in the same state as the internship, but ~400 miles away). Those moves were stressful but manageable; I was doing well physically at the time.

    I then became extremely ill, and moved home over Christmas. I wasn’t sure if I was staying there, or going back to university in January, and I was a physical and emotional mess. I remember taking a walk with one of my best friends at about midnight the night before / morning that I left, not sure I would be able to return to this place. I could barely walk that day (I used an airline-provided wheelchair), and had multiple heavy suitcases that I could barely deal with.

    I went back for winter term. I don’t know if that was a mistake or not, but it involved two more moves — once going back, and then coming home again. (There is no way I can be in school right now.) I am planning to go back for the summer, which will involve another move; either for three months, or for as long as I’m able to stay well enough to stay in school. Even then, I will probably have to move dorms in September, and I’m not sure what quite what I’ll do with my stuff between the summer session and the start of fall term.

    On top of everything else, this has sapped my energy so much; I don’t know where home is; I don’t feel like I have a safe space; I have trouble trying to recover when I feel like I can’t relax. But I’m lucky – I can walk (most of the time), I can lug suitcases (some of the time), and each move only put me out for a couple of days. I had the financial support to fly home when I was doing badly, and do the little things — a shuttle to my door, rather than taking luggage on public transit. My parents arranged logistics for me, so I didn’t have to; I managed.

  8. One of my long time dreams has been to get out of Memphis. Get away from the stifling heat and terrible public transportation, just get away!

    I almost did that by going to school out of state – nice weather (Washington), awesome public transport that was easy for a newbie like me to figure out, and mind-numbing pain that meant I wasn’t going to school, which led to tension with the relative I was staying with which led to suicidal ideation and homesickness.

    The U of M ain’t perfect, but I have enjoyed my time here. I’ve had fun in class, and my current roommate (she’s the 5th in 6 semesters) is pretty cool.

    And as I learned from being in Washington for a month, finding doctors and changing insurance (because we have Tricare South and Tricare this and blah blah shut up mom Cigna does not cover you everywhere, I’m not listening!) is EFFING HARD. I’d just gotten it all set up over there when I came back here. Then I untangled that mess.

    Now, I still want to move. I don’t want to drive, I don’t think I should drive, and the last time I did, the gas and brake switched on me and we ended up in a ditch, my ego the only thing bruised.

    but… but… starting over medically? New insurance? A new primary care place where they don’t know me? WHAT IF THEY DON’T BELIEVE ME?!

    So – the comfort of the known vs the fear of the unknown. In this economy, wow it’ll be fun on a bun.

  9. Ah, yes. I’ll probably be searching for a job– and moving somewhere else in the process– around the end of the year.

    I’ve practiced driving. Repeatedly. It just would not stick— it’s like I’d gain skills and then lose those same skills. And my visual processing speed is just not fast enough for driving safely; when it takes too long to realize that the mass of shapes you’re looking at is a car… yeaahhh… and that’s not even getting into the spatial perception quirks…

    So yeah. I’m pretty much limited to places which have good transit. And in which transit covers not just home, but also the place (or potential places) that I’d be working. And oh yeah, things like grocery stores and doctors’ offices and other such necessities too.

    And this, to be honest, severely limits my possibilities. But it’s better than me attempting to drive and constantly crashing into stuff…

  10. When we (by which I mean my parents and I, as I can not live on my own right now) were looking for a new house last year, it was a hideously difficult process. A lot of houses that were in our price range were immediately crossed off the list because it would cost us so much more to make them accessible for me. None of the listings ever mentioned accessibility, so we had to waste time, energy, & money (and oh so many spoons), driving around trying to figure out if places were even a possibility. (Is it really so hard to put “has twelve stairs” or “includes a bathroom the size of a closet, into which a wheelchair will never fit” as part of the listing? I don’t think so.) My parents did most of the looking, and then brought me in on the ones that they thought might work… but even those maybes were ones that included steps or other fixes that we would have to do on our own, so I could only see part of the house & take the rest on faith. Even the house we eventually moved into required that I stay somewhere else for 4 months while they fixed it up, and still has a second floor I’ve never seen.

    We also had to take into account things like smells (to which I am overly sensitive), and find a place that wasn’t too near a restaurant or ocean or factory or something like that, which, as I’m sure you can imagine is a tough thing to judge beforehand.

    I was lucky enough not to have to handle any of the heavy lifting, but packing up your entire life is difficult – and almost a year later, I’ve barely dented the unpacking.

    And, since it sort of relates, I’d also like to say that other people moving can be stressful for PWDs too: My sister is trying to find a place that she and her fiance can afford, but most of those apartments are either on very high floors (with no elevators), or are smaller and lack accessible bathrooms and hallways. We had a conversation just yesterday about how the current place they are looking at has ten “tiny” steps, and maybe someone could carry me up them? (She is not always a realistic type girl, particularly when it comes to my abilities/needs.) I told her she had to face the reality that if she lives there, I won’t be able to visit. And that sucks all around, but it isn’t as if they have an abundance of choices, really.