Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Mailbox

Over the last month or so the my Foundation's team was working on putting the final touches on the Apartment Accessibility Study we wanted to send out to complexes in town. I've written about before- I vividly remember the problems I've had finding a place to live for myself. I've faced big steps a the door I couldn't roll over, sunken living rooms, tiny showers, units way, way, way in the back of the place or that required me to roll up the hill to get to the one gate you could go through in a wheelchair. We wanted to do a good job and to gather the type of information others could use and avoid the problems I've had. It also needed to be the type of information property owners would be willing to check and provide. We were discussing factors we care about going back and forth. Some of us have different perspective and experiences with disability, things I would often not think about, and between all our ideas what had to emerge was one, uniform survey. Then one of the Board Members asked: what else do you look for? What else do you need? How about the mailbox? Yes, definitely I have to reach the mailbox. And I thought about all the times I had to ask somebody to get my mail as I waited. It wasn't a problem for as long as I  had roommate. They would just take care of that so for the longest time I didn't have to. In 2007 I went to Poland for a month. All of the other residents moved out and we all had separate leases. On the day after my return, the postman knocked on my door to say my mailbox is full and I need to clear it out. As I got to the stacked mailboxes I realized mine was in  the highest row. I could barely reach it and put my hand there, sometimes I could grab a few envelopes, but I couldn't be sure if something wasn't stuck on the bottom or pushed way back. I would wait for someone walking by to check my mail. Sometimes there was nobody to help me or I had to wait for a while. It was also during the time when I insisted to do everything myself so having to wait a long time to ask random and often drunk strangers to check if I hadn't missed anything was quite humiliating. I couldn't just spring of my chair to do it myself. I considered switching apartments only so I can do it myself. The two things that apartment complexes with identical units don't care about: where is it in the complex and  which corresponding mailbox is it where crucial to my independence. The management just show you the model- they don't tell you which specific apartment is yours- from where they're standing they're all the same and they are not assigned until way later. From a person who walks the differences are irrelevant/ I ended up wheeling uphill for 30 minutes every day for three years  just to get to the bus stop. Mine was the building in the very back of the complex. As Michael asked me about mailboxes I looked at mine. A5- I can reach it perfectly, but as I'm moving to a bigger unit in August, my new address will be A17. My property manager wanted to tell me in advance what apartments would be vacant so I could make sure it works for me. I checked out where it was. One thing I didn't think of was the mailbox. It's a bit to the right. Luckily, it's not in the highest row or I'd be giving strangers my mailkey again. Although I have no problem getting my letters and bills I'm still in a pickle when the postman leaves me a package I'm rarely expecting. It ends up locked in one of the stacked containers with a key left in my mailbox. If I'm lucky he leaves in in the two lower boxes. If I'm not I have to wait for someone walking their dogs to help me. Not a great position to be in, but thankfully it doesn't happen that often.

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