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Burlington Woman in Wheelchair Calls Condo Hunting ‘An Unacceptable Nightmare’

by John Bkila
Burlington Post
September 8, 2017
Cheryl Cousens, 31, wants to move out of her family home, but cannot find accessible condos/apartments in Burlington. Some are wide enough for her to move around, but bathroom facilities, kitchens and laundry rooms are not built to be accessible to people with mobility issues.

At 31, Cheryl Cousens says she can’t have what many single adults take for granted their independence.

In a wheelchair, and currently unemployed due to some health issues, the life-long Burlington resident lives with her mother and one of two brothers.

“Normally, people are out in their 20’s, they’ve gone to school, they’ve come home been out on their own. Me, I’m kind of in a stuck position because there is nowhere for me to go,” she said.

Cousens was born with spina bifida hydrocephalus, a condition that has confined her to a wheelchair, essentially since birth, with no feeling from her waist down.

She’s been looking for an apartment or condo unit to rent in Burlington, on and off for a while seriously over the past year but said she hasn’t been able to find any suitable accessible units.

“It’s been an unacceptable nightmare; trying to find what you’re looking for and it doesn’t exist,” Cousens explained.

Kitchens, bathrooms sources of frustration

Space isn’t a problem, as units are usually wide enough for her chair to get through. The kitchens, bathrooms and en-suite laundry rooms are the sources of her frustration.

“The bathrooms are usually too small for my chair even to get close enough to the toilet and bathtub, which is difficult and unsafe,” she said.

“The other big thing is (the) kitchens being too small and (me) not being able to reach and open up appliances and use them safely; and the washer and dryer are usually stacked or top loaders, which is impossible for me to use.

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