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Tips for Living with the Physically Disabled

Updated on May 16, 2013

Not the Angle of Family Member

I will not be writing this hub from the point of view of living with a family member who is physically handicapped, although you may be able to apply some things to that. This hub will focus on living with a roommate who recently broke their leg or similar major physical injury, or simply choosing a roommate(s) with physical disabilities to provide them a better place to live and work and become more independent.

The American Dream

In America, the dream is live by yourself or spouse in the biggest house with the biggest yard you can afford. Another dream is to live in a party bachelor pad with the "coolest" guys you know. In actuality, I've had great satisfaction by renting out rooms with me to those who have physical challenges gain more independence and become "normal people". Because I am a Christian, I live it out by loving my neighbour and helping the less fortunate, as God has given us grace, help and abilities. I am just as much a misfit as they feel, so we share commonalities that way.

They can cook...

The roommates of this nature I have had have all been much better cooks than I am. My idea of a meal often consists of eating a pack of cheese, going to the farmer's market and buying some apples to eat, surviving on kefir and protein shakes or walking down the street to get a slice of pizza or a whole pie. There were things to do instead! My roommates were often more methodical in this fashion, and more skilled (I guess going for a jog wasn't on their to-do list). So they made the place more like home. Related or unrelated, they were also much better than I was at keeping the kitchen tidy.

They were also able to speak patience and an easy going temperament into many crash-boom-bang situations in my life.

They aren't dumb...

Whether they worked at a parts factory or as a graphic designer, it doesn't mean that if someone is confined to wheelchair or walker they cannot work, understand household bills, and so forth. They might receive money from disability, social security, or from their job and it's not your job to take over their finances. Treat them like a normal person and roommate.

Even if they cannot play football, doesn't mean that they cannot converse with you about the game or current events in general, so don't try to babysit them unless they are abnormally withdrawn like any roommate could turn out to be.

One of my roommates who had a disability went on to get married, so it is not my place or yours to judge friends, romances, relationships, and so forth, unless the relationship is clearly detrimental or hostile. They've probably been through a lot of bad looks and talking behind their back, so cut them a little slack and be an encouragement whether you feel like it or perhaps not.

Finally, Some Tips

- I selected a ground-level place that was close to where a main bus stop to downtown was located.

- I set up a list of household chores for each of us to complete. What he didn't want to pay in rent, he could do more cooking and chores.

- I set up social nights every so often where we could watch a movie and I could listen to him.

- I yelled at him to turn his rap music down and all things roommates do.

- I installed bathroom fixtures such as handlebars and stools in case of accident/emergency.

- I made sure that my phone was always charged up in the flat in case he needed to call me on the phone. It was easy to talk on the phone than move from room to room to talk.

- I set up a schedule of when I would be physically there and available and when I would be unavailable.

- I took his shopping list and went shopping for him when I went shopping.

- I made sure that the snow was shoveled in the morning.

- He took out the trash from inside, however.


Single people, what do you look for in a roommate?

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Future Challenges

I hope that young people will make the connection when they ask themselves questions of the future, "Should I try to become a rich and powerful business man ala Mark Cuban, Donald Trump, Steve Jobs et al, or should I go into charity work?" You can do both! Make six figures, buy a nice home, and give it to the Special Olympics free and live there with them. Rent a spectacular pad downtown, and then open it up to military veterans rehabbing injuries. I'm not this prolific but that doesn't mean someone can't be. We're good at hiding the unsightly and putting on a good image; work to bring people out of shelters and give them the master bedroom. It will give you a better perspective while living your life if you try it for a few months. You may have seen this relationship portrayed in the movie Forrest Gump by Forrest and post-war Lieutenant Dan.

This is probably not for newly married couples and happy family units, but if you are a single guy working on your MBA or your figuring out your life besides work, it's a lifestyle idea. Although they moved on and moved out to better things, I feel better having been friends and roommates with them. Not disabled as in "them", but taking a broader view of roommates and people you spend time with rather than I might think has the best "resume".

Forrest Gump relationship TM & © Paramount (2012)

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