All Kevin Penny wants to do is move to Dartmouth so he can be closer to family but his search for a contractor that will work with him has fallen short.
“There’s some gaps when it comes to accessible units for everyone,” said Penny, a quadriplegic man living in Halifax.
He suffered a spinal cord injury after a cycling accident when he was just 15 years old.
“I was going down the hill and lost brakes on my bike and swerved to miss a car and went head first into a ditch and happened as quickly as that,” Penny said.
He’s been in a wheelchair ever since but it hasn’t slowed him down.
Penny went on to university and landed a successful career but the one area he struggles with is finding accessible housing.
“It’s always a struggle to find somewhere that’s centralized and safe,” he said.
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He lucked out with the apartment he’s currently living in because he was able to work with the contractor during the early construction stages.
The apartment is open concept with lots of space and includes an adapted shower that suites his needs.
“They’ve made the shower so it’s level entry so I can roll in,” said Penny.
He says despite all of the new residential construction sites in the metro area none of the contractors he’s approached have been willing to work with him.
“The biggest push back I get from them is their belief that if they adapt my apartment and I leave, the unit won’t be as marketable to new renters if I leave. I completely disagree because they type of adaptations that one might require is universal,” said Penny.
Darrell Robar works with clients at the Canadian Quadriplegic Association of Nova Scotia. He says accessible housing is an issue that some landlords and building owners avoid.
“They don’t like the word disabled and when you tag disabled to something all they see is expense, expense, expense and basically all you’re talking about is open concept, reasonably-priced apartments,” Robar said.
Penny says he’s tried to see if there’s government grants available to him but because of his income he doesn’t qualify.
“I’m just not eligible for those grants to help even subsidize some of the costs to make this happen and so that can be frustrating,” said Penny.
It’s a frustration that Robar hopes new developers of residential construction will take into consideration.
“We need more flexibility on the part of building managers in relation to the units that they’re building. Those units being more accessible, more open concept in particular the bathroom,” Robar said .