Imagine this. You have moved out of your parent’s home, finally free to live your life to the fullest. This is the dream of every average young person. But what happens if you are not “average” but disabled? Navigating the housing market is daunting at best but can be perilous for individuals with special needs.
New Brunswick is facing a housing crisis both in rental units and housing availability. Whether our government would like to admit it or not, rental and housing prices are escalating rapidly. People are now having to choose between meeting their basic housing needs, and putting food on the table. This situation is becoming critical. Part of the difficulty is that some disabled individuals are not employed or self-employed. They are relying entirely on social assistance for their sustenance.
It took me over a year to secure suitable accommodation. Let me take you through the arduous process I followed, guided by the Department of Social Development. First, there was the screening process where I had to explain why I considered myself eligible for social assistance housing. This was followed by writing a detailed summary of my disability needs. The process was a lot more intensive than I anticipated, but resulted in an acknowledgement that I qualified for a rent subsidy through the Department of Social Development. Now, I had to find an apartment that suited my needs.
I called every apartment complex in the area, and finally found a unit, which was not barrier free, but almost ideal for someone with my disabilities. As a manual wheelchair user, I have made it work. Ideally, I would have a barrier free apartment. with an open concept floor plan, and all the doorways widened to at least 36 inches. A standard interior door is 32 inches. A barrier free unit may also include a walk-in shower, a kitchen with lower countertops, and a cooking surface with the burners on the outside of the stove for easy access.
Many apartments do not allow pets. Personally, I can’t understand why. Pets are great for your mental health, and for general companionship. My cat Champ is a tuxedo cat that has helped reduce my pain as I recovered from surgeries I’ve undergone due to my disability. He loves me unconditionally; he is always there when I need him for emotional support, a typical lap cat.
As a disability advocate from New Brunswick, I am very passionate about everyone receiving fair and equal treatment, whether you are disabled, able bodied, cisgender, gay or transgender, it does not matter to me.
Housing is a human right; a basic need, and our government must do more to help end the housing crisis we face in this province. I understand no system is perfect, nor will it ever be, but this is the 21st century. By making our voices heard, we will ensure New Brunswick takes the lead as an inclusive and accepting province. I know it can be done if we show support for this initiative.
Join me here next month as I continue my disability awareness series with the NB Media Co-op.
Kaitlyn Layden is a disability rights advocate in New Brunswick. She will be delivering a public talk on disability discrimination in housing on World Cerebral Palsy Day, October 6, at 7:00pm by Zoom.