As I wrote on my Plus Black blog last week and now here, on Stiletto Wheels, I am posting for the first time in 2019. And the reason for my absence, both now and over the past couple of months?
Finally, we signed the contract for the building work on our house – which I have been banging on about for most of 2018 – on the 24th of December 2018. (Click through the Access My Home series to read the story to date).
The building work started on the 14th of January and, in the interim, we have had to find somewhere new to live for the duration – a period of 30 weeks; move into said accommodation; get all our possessions into storage; and deal with all the myriad of other issues that arise from such events.
It’s been a busy few weeks: blogging has been far from my mind and way beyond my physical capabilities (#tootiredtosleep).
However, I am feeling the urge to blog returning – stress writing is my thing – and I thought I’d recommence the Access My Home series, on the Stiletto Wheels blog, by documenting the fraught process of finding, and moving into suitably accessible temporary accommodation.
I will say, upfront, that I wasn’t keen to move out of my home into temporary accommodation. When I realised that I would have to because of the scope and extent of the works being done, I nearly cried and even more so when I was told it would be 30 weeks – 7-8 months.
I’m sure all wheelchair users will empathise with me on this. Our homes are tailored to be accessible to each of us and, as a highly dependent wheelchair user, I have great difficulty finding adequate accessibility and functionality in accommodation outside of my home – even general hospitals are ill-equipped to cope with my needs which include a hoist (plus a spare), a special air-mattress bed, an electric wheelchair (plus a spare) and a shower/commode chair plus more ‘disability/illness – necessary but hated – junk’ and everything else that every other person needs as well.
However, grasping the mettle and pulling up my big girl panties, D&me did our best to find what we needed in the very short time frame that we had.
And, I’m happy to say that we mostly succeeded, though it did get a bit tense as we were looking.
Staggeringly, we came across some extraordinarily poor service from letting agents which we felt was based upon on-the-spot presumptions about us that were so wrong. One laughable example was the agent who said, looking us from head to toe: You need to earn at least £75,000 to rent one of these flats.
On what basis they assumed we did not have sufficient income, I remain blissfully unaware.
On access, I was amazed to find that today, even in new build flats, there’s scarcely a wet room to be found – certainly, none in my London borough.
In despair, we explored the hotel option when we realised that a wet room in a flat was impossible to find.
Astonishingly, in well-known nationwide chains and new-build hotels alike, a wet room, even for advertised ‘disabled’ rooms, was not widely available.
Almost 20 years after first becoming a wheelchair user, I found myself still looking at a bathroom, described as being accessible, with a bath, grab rail on the wall opposite and an overhead shower.
Asking from my wheelchair: how do people manage that? I was told that ‘somehow’ they do. Total face-palm moment.
Who do these people consult on disability access? It really does not bode well for anyone with severe mobility difficulties who would like to travel but that’s a topic for another day.
Today, I am happy to say that we revisited the renting a flat option and, over the course of a nailbiting ten days, we secured a lease on the flat below, in a new build block very close to our home – so no excuse for not popping in to check out the building works though, of course, there will be no access for me throughout the duration.
The flat is not ideal. There is no wet room, huge steps out to balconies, it is small for us, but it is manageable. It certainly is the best option of all the things available that we could find and is within a town centre development which is both wonderfully central and amazingly wheelchair accessible. Loving that.
Day by day, I shall simply grit my teeth and get through the functional problems for the next several months, marking off the days and weeks like a prisoner in a cell and yanking up the big girl panties as necessary … I think they’re around my ears right now.
So, step 1: moving into temporary accommodation ✔️ and keeping my eyes on the prize of a successful renovation project.
Click to see more in the Access My Home series.