Accessible living…it’s not so easy to find

I’ve been house hunting for a little over a year now. I didn’t realize how many houses exist in this world that are not accessible. You don’t think about those things until you need something like that for yourself and then you discover just how unaware the world actually is. Before MS, I was one of those unaware people, so I get it. I never thought about a door width or counter height.

One of the first things I look for is a wide entryway at the front door. I don’t want a door that opens into a hallway or a stairwell. An upstairs is just wasted space for me anyway, but it could come in handy for a caregiver to live in. I need enough room to be able to turn around in my wheelchair so my preference is for it to open into a large entryway or a room.

I then check out the main living area flooring. Is it carpeted? I prefer a hard surface over carpet because for one, carpet gets stained easily from the wheels of my wheelchair when I am coming in from a rainy day. And two, it is harder to maneuver a wheelchair on carpet. My preference if for the entire living, hallway and master bedroom to be a hard surface flooring.

I then look at the kitchen. Can my wheelchair move around easily without running into the cabinets or refrigerator? Are there enough lower cabinets for me to keep the things I need access to? Is there enough counter space for me to prepare my meals and are they at a good height for me as I’m sitting in my chair?

Next I check out the hallway. Older homes have much narrower hallways making turning into a room off the hallway nearly impossible. I need it to be wide enough so I’m not going to run into anything as I turn. If I have enough room to easily turn into and out of a room, I’m good.

Then I check out the master bathroom. Can I get my chair in there? You’d be surprised how many homes have narrow bathroom doorways that make it impossible for someone in a wheelchair to use. Am I able to turn around or will I have to back out the same way I came in? Is there a stand alone shower and preferably zero-entry so there’s no need to step up into it, I can just transfer to a shower wheelchair and wheel myself in?

Those are my must haves. Everything else is icing on the cake. Things like low windows, easy to reach outlets and light switches, door levers instead of door knobs (it makes it so much easier to open a door), unobstructed access to the mailbox, and a covered outside patio so I can enjoy a beautiful day while sitting in the shade.

Like I said, I’ve been looking for a long time, and house after house didn’t make the cut. Either the price was way too high or the home needed too many modifications. But I think I’ve finally found the house for me. Now I just need to put in an offer before someone else beats me to it and see if the homeowner will sell it for the price I want.

One of the hardest things being disabled and wanting to purchase a home is the worry over whether you will be able to be approved for a home loan when you are no longer working and your only income is your SSDI. (In the United States, that’s the Social Security Disability Income. I’m not sure how other countries manage those things.)

I was actually surprised in my searching for lenders that there are more options available than I realized for low income buyers. Yesterday, I went to the bank and was approved…so miracles do happen! I walked away, or I should say wheeled away, with a pre-qualification letter for the amount needed to buy the house I found.

I have a few days to look over the contract my realtor sent me and sign on the dotted line. Once my signature goes down, it’s a done deal and the ball will start to roll. It’s kind of an exciting yet scary time. I’m hoping my offer is accepted by the seller without a counter offer and that things will close quickly. And I’m working hard to come up with the down-payment, believing that even with that miracles can happen.

I can’t wait to move in and stay put. No more stress over moving and no more worrying about what I’m going to do if my progression gets worse. I will have a place all my own to make work for me, and room for a caregiver to come live in the future. I’m always looking ahead to the what if’s of tomorrow but trying to stay in the moment of today.

Don’t give up on your dream. Keep pursuing it and believing. I’m believing with you!

MS Gets on My NervesMS WarriorMS Superhero  

About the Author
About the Author
Penelope Conway

Penelope Conway
Penelope started Positive Living with MS as a way to help others with MS stay positive in the midst of a terrible disease. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day. Multiple Sclerosis may never go away, but neither will her determination and her drive to help others through the journey.

33 replies
  1. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    Well done Penelope that must be good for you. Our house is not anywhere near perfect for what I may need, but it’s still our hose and I can still move around it ok. We had the bathroom altere when we move in and now it’s a shower room with no bath and a self draining floor. Just recently we had the steps at the back door covered and not the best but still works. When the EQC people decide to fix the place up we might look for a better place for our needs and I’m sure there will be something for us. I will be a bit sorry for this move as we have lived here for 16 years now and it has been part of my life more than any other.

  2. Robin Francis says:

    After 28 years I still find it amazing even though in the uk we have the DDA , I’ve been very lucky in that my local made my house adaptable a lift straight to my bedroom and bathroom disabled friendly . Good look in you search

  3. Lori Thompson Wall says:

    So true…when we built our two story “dream home” how was I supposed to know that just a few short years later I would be confined to a wheelchair due to MS. I haven’t seen my kids rooms in over 12 years…..we will finally have it paid off in Dec. Then I’ll build a house so I can go anywhere I dang well please…..inside and out. And I cannot wait. Unfortunately by the time both my babies will be grown. But there’s always grandbabies………

  4. Nancy Day says:

    Yes! My husband – a carpenter – spent thousands upgrading a singlewide mobile home to accomodate me. I can’t imagine a house! Then more $$ for a ramp. That doesn’t count his labor if we’d been paying for that.

  5. Sandy Jones says:

    I’ve gotten a tiny taste of your pain. I still get around very well (knock wood) but my left leg lacks lift (like the alliteration?) The first thing I did when I was officially diagnosed was to replace the bathtub with a walk in shower computer with appropriately placed grab bars.

  6. Kathy Hamilton Doiron says:

    I’ve been going through the same thing. Really, when did it EVER make sense to put the laundry room in the basement? Do most people go to the basement to undress, and I’m just weird?????

  7. Stacy Neuman says:

    I’m so exited for you, I hope they accept your offer and don’t counter as well, the less hassle the better ! Go get your house my friend!!! ☕️

    • Maria M Paz says:

      Good Luck Penelope and Yes is truly crazy how we don’t think about these things ….in Jersey when I got my first attack of RA I had three steps to climb into my house and I couldn’t do it at all my son and husband had to carry me in ….. So when we moved to Florida we got a Ranch Style Home also have a sliding door in the back so if it gets worst at least I can be wheeled to The back to watch my Sunsets

    • Stacy Neuman says:

      I am waiting to have a ramp to installed from my front door, even the slight step on my front door has become difficult…yes little things become big things 😳

  8. Joy
    Joy says:

    WOW!! That is great news…
    I will be praying for you that they accept your offer and if they do that the move goes great.
    Looking forward to seeing pictures..
    God is good all in His time and sometimes that may take way longer than what our flesh and thinking wants. Patience look up what this means and write it down and read as much as needed.. This is a word that has been placed on my heart with God and it’s hard to just stop, listen and wait.. Finally one day I said to myself-self why are you running I am missing out on so much.. I have slowed down with the MS but on a good day I do what I do and just goooooo, no more I am really enjoying learning to enjoy the day.

    Blessings and lots of love
    P.S. how do I get it that my pic. shows up on my msg. Please help

  9. Leah
    Leah says:

    Penelope, I hope and pray you get this house! I too needed to move when my MS condition worsened. I can’t remember how many condos we looked at but I know it was a lot before we found the perfect one. I now live in an open plan condo that has elevators and a ramp outside the building. We mdified our kitchen to make it more ergonomic for me. I can now sit at my kitchen counter on an adjustable stool and prep for meals. Our bedroom has a master bathroom suite with separate bath & shower, besides a powder room which we plan to make into a walk-in/roll-in shower one day. Our foyer and hall in our condo are wide enough for a wheelchair and so are the doorways if I ever need a wheelchair. All rooms are hardwood and we have a huge terrace that overlooks a park and canal. It was a wise decision to move
    and I’m happier for doing it. Please let me know if you get the house…my fingers are crossed…Good luck!

  10. Lauren Campbell Kovacs says:

    Moved about year and half ago….went with downstairs master and wider doorways. Our old house, the doorways were so narrow I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get into my bathroom and taking a shower was even worse. Took four months and I still had to install grab bars all over and a lift from garage into my house, but better than before when I had to sit on shower floor because it was too small for a shower chair.

  11. Rachel Cytanovic says:

    When I lived at Lake Tahoe, NV, I needed to find a house with no steps. Realtors think just a few steps is the same as no steps. I didn’t need wheel chair accessibility, just NO STEPS. We looked at 106 houses before we found one. We made an offer and we knew there were others. At church on Sunday the preacher asked if there were any prayer requests. I told about my house hunting saga. We got the house. What I didn’t know at the time was that the daughter of the seller was in the congregation that morning. She had gone home and said, “Dad, you HAVE to sell the house to Rachel.” God answers prayers. He even answers prayer requests. It was a great house.

  12. Jessica Lowhorn Petroff says:

    It’s so true. I absolutely love older homes, but the costs of updating them to fit ADA standards is crazy expensive. Pocket doors truly are our best friends when it comes to updating without having to tear everything apart. Best of luck in your search!

  13. Paulette Brown
    Paulette Brown says:

    Congrats on finding a place! I’ll pray it goes through for you. Have you considered writing the seller a letter? (what it means to you to find a place etc-your circumstances etc?) I have heard that it is sometimes helpful. Ask your realtor.

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