Diverse Housing?

The November 24 web page of the Lakewood patch proclaims, “Lakewood Diversifying Housing Stock, Building ADA-Friendly Homes.” From the article it should read “home” in the singular. Let me start by stating that Lakewood, being an inner ring suburb, is pretty easy to get around if you are in a wheelchair or have any other mobility issues. I do appreciate the city leveling off the sidewalks, as I am sure  parents with strollers and kids on bikes do. We do have some good services here and the newer architecture and venues can be navigated with relative ease in places like Lakewood and Madison Parks, city buildings and supermarkets.

But what we don’t have is accessible housing. Lakewood is the home of the Colonials and doubles and apartment that have steps. Barely a ranch to be found. Even the high rises that can be entered without much difficulty have bathrooms that are cumbersome in which to maneuver, doors that are too narrow for wheelchairs, and countertops that are impossibly high. There are places that have been made ADA compliant, but a few businesses could be a little more helpful in that regard.

The city of Lakewood has just announced that it is “diversifying” its housing stock by having a contractor widen doors, lower sinks, raise toilets, heck, build a whole bathroom, most homes in the city were built with bathrooms on the second floor. And put in some sort of ramp. Steps are the enemy to those of us in wheelchairs.

Lakewood has always been diverse, at least financially, our housing is not. So one house being renovated on Edanola Ave (and a possible “environmentally friendly” home on Lauderdale) does not exactly a diversification make. The city has been going townhouse crazy. Which is fine, it attracts, younger upscale residents, who pay significant taxes. But they are just more domiciles that are inaccessible.

I hope the city is able to attract more contractors to renovate some of the old houses to create homes where a wheelchair can enter and move about. Perhaps it’s for sale (believe it or not many disabled people have money, although I am not one of them). Maybe for Gramma or Uncle Steve who lost a leg in Iraq? Or you. Chances are that in your lifetimes you will become at least temporarily laid up. There are some people who have made structural changes to their home to accommodate a family member who needs a little help in making their lives a little easier.

It is estimated that 3.6 million Americans over the age of 15 need a wheelchair to get around. And many more who use canes, walkers or other mobility devices. One thing to consider is that with the current president and congress, programs are more likely to be cut in HUD and eventually Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. This will impact the ability to find and pay for accessible housing.

So Lakewood claims diversity in its housing options with one house being refitted for those of us who cannot get into most of the houses and apartments. Actually the bottom units of up and down doubles are perfect for this kind of renovation as they have complete living spaces (read bathrooms) already constructed. And all the while three story townhouses are popping up across the city, mocking us, and telling those of us in wheelchairs, that we are not important. One house does not make Lakewood housing diverse. Excuse me if I don’t stand up and applaud.

Tom Fahey has a Master's Degree in Urban Planning, Design and Development from Cleveland State Universaity. He is a wheelchair user due to Charcot Marie Tooth disease, a neuromuscular disorder.

Tom Fahey

Tom Fahey has a Master's Degree in Urban Planning, Design and Development from Cleveland State Universaity. He is a wheelchair user due to Charcot Marie Tooth disease, a neuromuscular disorder.

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Volume 13, Issue 23, Posted 10:05 PM, 12.05.2017