If you are visually impaired or blind, finding housing to fit your specific needs can be challenging. Before you begin house hunting, it can be helpful to develop a list of personal preferences. A list makes it easier for you, or the person assisting you, to narrow down your search. In honor of National Fair Housing Month, here are some things to take into consideration about looking at future housing options.
The first step for anyone looking at housing is figuring out where it is they want to live. Your home should be in an area in which you feel safe and meets your needs. Think about the places you go on a regular basis. Is it important that you can walk to those places? If this is the case, you may want to look at housing that is located around shopping centers that include grocery, casual shopping, and dining options. Or is being close to a bus line important to you? If this is the case, looking at where the bus stop is located, how early, late, and often the buses are scheduled would be helpful. Accessible smartphone maps give you an idea of what businesses are near a location, as well as what bus lines are in the neighborhood.
If you are a blind or visually impaired person who likes their independence, access to public transportation will be high on the list of “must haves”. When looking at housing options, make sure the neighborhood is on a transit line. Research the guidelines for fixed-route and paratransit services to ensure your needs will be met. Knowledge of the routes, for example fixed and express, and their schedules can very helpful when choosing where to live. It is also important to know where the bus stop is in proximity to your location.
If you are a public transit user, this information is essential in determining if a location is right for you.
Outlook Enrichment offers travel training to teach people with disabilities, older adults, and any interested traveler how to access and use public transportation independently. Some of the skills travel training focuses on include:
Understanding trip planning software
Reading route maps and schedules
Locating bus stops
Obtaining and using transit passes
Using mobility devices safely
Recognizing when the desired stop has been reached and how to ask the bus driver to stop
Contact Outlook Enrichment if you are interested in travel training.
Helpful hint: Paratransit systems tend to only run on fixed routes and have limited hours. In general, ADA paratransit service must be provided within 3/4 of a mile of a bus route or rail station, at the same hours and days, for no more than twice the regular fixed-route fare. If paratransit is your primary mode of transportation, it never hurts to call and verify an address to ensure service.
Walkability is the measure of how friendly an area is for walking. When applied to people with vision loss, walkability is looked at from a safety and convenience standpoint. Here are some questions to ask yourself when thinking about safety in walkability:
Are there well maintained and navigable sidewalks throughout the area?
Are the sidewalks on both sides of the street?
Are there accessible pedestrian signals at street crossings?
Are the Street crossings to get to services easy to navigate or complex intersections with multiple crossings?
Making sure there is an adequate path of travel and sidewalks leading to and from your destination ensures you arrive safely.
Something else to consider is the age of the neighborhood. How old is the neighborhood? Old neighborhoods most likely all have sidewalks, but the condition will vary. New housing divisions may have gaps where open lots are still for sale.
When we think about convenience in walkability, ask yourself this: Are there amenities such as grocery stores and restaurants within a five to 10 minute walk? If your answer is no and you find value and convenience in being able to independently walk to places, then that location is probably not the best choice for you.
Looking for housing is never a fun process but taking the time to create a “must have” list and asking questions can help you make the best choice for you to meet your housing needs.