Independent, accessible living still challenging, despite mandates

Mar 26, 2015

Jensen Caraballo uses RTS Access paratransit service to travel to work in Rochester, New York.
Credit SASHA-ANN SIMONS/WXXI

"There aren’t many accessible homes for people with disabilities. And when they are accessible, they’re usually too expensive or segregated,” says 24-year-old wheelchair user, Jensen Caraballo.

It’s been 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act established a mandate that five percent of all federally-assisted housing developments must be accessible for persons with mobility disabilities.

Reporting in upstate New York from Innovation Trail reporters indicates that many New Yorkers living with disabilities still face challenges accessing services and difficult choices balancing quality of life and affordability.

(Videos after the jump)

In February, an Innovation Trail report out of Syracuse by WRVO detailed the backlog of people waiting for accessible housing, a shortage of options, and families struggling with housing deemed accessible. According to Federal Census data, close to 10 per cent of the city’s population has a physical disability. And of that group almost half live below the poverty line.

"There aren't many accessible homes for people with disabilities. And when they are accessible, they're usually too expensive or segregated"

According to design experts, one way to alleviate this issue is the idea of “visitability” – a low-cost way to future-proof housing and build in inexpensive mobility-friendly features during construction, as Jonathan White, an Architectural Research and Design Associate at the University at Buffalo explains.

“The idea of visitability was to try to fill this gap and to provide just a basic level of access – we’re not talking full accessibility and grab bars and everything like that. But maybe, just putting blocking in the walls for future installation of grab bars or having at least one zero step entrance.”

Innovation Trail will run a four-part series on accessible housing from Monday March 30th, on WXXI am1370, innovationtrail.org and wxxinews.org.

WATCH: Wheelchair user Jensen Caraballo navigates his Rochester, New York apartment.

WATCH: Indepedent, accessible living a challenge in rural Upstate New York.