By: Daniella Jade Lowe
Housing and assisted living can be quite scarce for people with disabilities. Most times people with disabilities live with family where they rely on parents for support.
While living with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, I’ve had the privilege of living in two separate countries, which means I’ve had two separate homes. I was born in England, raised in Bermuda. I have dual nationality, which has resulted in dual perspectives on disability.
I lived with my parents in Bermuda during my early school years, then I lived independently in England. I completed Primary, Middle and High School in Bermuda then completed college and university in England.
Living in both countries has been an eye opener for me especially from the perspective of being a wheelchair user.
Housing in England vs Housing in Bermuda
Housing in England is completely different to Housing in Bermuda, especially for people with disabilities.
During my college and university years, I lived in student accommodations that were modified for wheelchair users. Cultural differences impacted this. Once I completed university, I transferred to Assisted Independent Living. I live at a housing scheme called Five Oaks Housing Scheme under Sanctuary Housing Association in Ilkley. Sanctuary Housing Association is a housing corporation dedicated to the disabled community in the UK. https://www.sanctuary-housing.co.uk/.
I have a great landlord who meets with the residents and I on a quarterly basis. She also communicates effectively, in-person, by phone and email. My bathroom is equipped with handrails to make transferring easy. I also use a profiling bed in addition to my height adjustable electric wheelchair. All counters and tables are low enough for me.
However there are other people in my flat who require the use of assistive technology.
Residents who are either unemployed or actively job seeking are eligible for Housing Benefit pays rent in the UK.
One recurring issue that I’ve experienced in relation to housing is having access to showering facilities instead of bathing facilities. I personally prefer baths to showers.
According to my research, Bermuda offers Summerhaven Trust. Summerhaven Trust is an assisted living residential complex that provides the opportunity for people with physical disabilities to live in the community. https://helpingservices.bm/listing/summerhaven-residential-home/
The Bermuda Housing Corporation provides loans for the elderly and the disabled in Bermuda. https://www.bhc.bm/senior-disabled-loans/.
For the last house that I lived in, before moving to England, my family sought to make the house wheelchair accessible with an escape route for me in case of a fire or flood, by the patio area, but the Department of Planning wouldn’t let us do so because it was too risky. Bermuda has legislation for this. https://planning.gov.bm/index.php/planning-legislation/.
During my high school years, my father teamed up with a family friend to implement a lift at my house at one point because there were stairs to access and exit the house. Bermuda has legislation for this. http://www.bermudalaws.bm/laws/Consolidated%20Laws/Building%20Authority%20(Elevators%20and%20Lifts)%20Regulations%201962.pdf.
Additionally, the Disabled Living Allowance is also available while living out here. I’ve also received additional support from Carers like Dignicare and Visioncare.https://www.dignicare.co.uk/, http://www.visioncare.co/.
Wheelchair Accessibility: Functioning in Dysfunction
This is one of the main reasons why I moved to England from Bermuda as a high school graduate.
Wheelchair Accessibility and mobility issues are just some of the problems that I face as a wheelchair user. Access alleviates the amount of limitations and restrictions on wheelchair users. Failing to ensure wheelchair accessibility is neglecting to provide reasonable adjustments. It is like functioning in dysfunction.
However, despite all of this, people with disabilities, like me, can lead independent lives even though we experience a restricted level of independence. Yes we do have preferences, goals and ambitions. We also have rights too.
Throughout this whole ‘Dealing with Disability’ series, I’ve learned that both countries have endeavoured to make mandatory reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities through legislation and finances. Reasonable adjustments, finances and legislation enable us to live independently. This is the way we deal with life.