For several years my family and I searched for the perfect apartment home for our intellectually disabled, yet high functioning daughter to venture out and live independently. This should be easy, right? There are literally thousands of apartments all over Tampa, but very few could be deemed appropriate for my special needs daughter. Just like in school, our disabled population CAN and WILL succeed if given proper modiﬁcations and accommodations (remember all those IEP’s?). In the case of independent living, our “IEP for adult life” needs to have certain criteria for a successful experience:
A safe place – This includes things like a gated community, keypad entrances for residents only, security cameras in common areas, Ring doorbells with cameras, trusted oﬃce staﬀ who can help out in an emergency, and background checked residents as neighbors.
Walkability – Quite a few adults with disabilities do not drive and public transportation is not always available or feasible. Being able to walk to a job, a grocery store, restaurants, pharmacies, shopping, theaters, or even a coﬀee shop insures that basic needs will be met, as well as that all important feeling of pride that “I can take care of myself and make my own choices”. PRICELESS!
Aﬀordability – Here is the really hard part. We actually found the apartment unicorn we were seeking. Yes, it had all of those really great things just mentioned. Was it aﬀordable? NO, but for the goal of independence, we were determined to make it work. Our other children went to college with money we had saved for their education, and to us, our daughter was now attending the “University of LIFE”. She lived in her apartment successfully for 2 years, but sadly, even with her earnings from 2 jobs, her SSI money, and the money we had saved for her, we could no longer aﬀord the $1000 a month rent INCREASE that occurred in just a 2 year period. This was in addition to the extremely high base price we started with in 2021. After being successful in every way and proving her independence, our daughter had to move back home because it simply was not aﬀordable for her to live on her own.
The fact of the matter is most people with disabilities will never have high paying jobs that give them the luxury of home ownership or fancy apartment living. They should, however, be able to reach their full potential and live in a safe and accessible environment without cost being an obstacle. My wish is for all communities to oﬀer aﬀordable housing to people with disabilities who would like to live independently. For many, this would be a dream come true, and certainly life changing for those with disabilities.