Living in a rental house as a person living with a disability is almost untenable. It is even harder for people whose disabilities limit mobility completely and have to rely on wheelchairs among other devices. This means that many people living with disabilities have to live with relatives or remain home until further notice. The biggest issue, in this case, is accessibility. Accessibility comes in many different forms. Every part of the unit and neighborhood has to be accessible by the person. That means that landlords either have to allow the tenant to make modifications on their own or have to create a unit that is accessible and friendly for a person with a disability. Below are important factors to consider.
Not many people can afford the rent in buildings with elevators. If you can, good for you but if you cannot then you will need a home you are comfortable and happy in. That means that you have to be on the lookout for specific features.
Preferably, the unit should be on the ground floor of the building. Being on the ground floor not only reduces how much effort is used to leave the building but also the time. This is especially important for a building that does not have a ramp. However, if the building has a step at the gate a ramp will definitely be necessary. The ramp should be professionally done. An incline can be dangerous especially for a person on a wheelchair and should therefore, be at a safe angle.
The floor plan of the house is another issue. If the house has steps all over from the bathroom to the kitchen and even the bedroom then there should either be a ramp or the person should find a place that does not have so many steps. If one is using a wheelchair they should find a place with wide doors.
Features and furnishings should be placed low enough for you to reach. That means light switches, sinks, and even doorknobs. The bathroom should have bars that will ensure the safety of the tenant.
You will need to use the hood amenities. What happens when you run out of salt? What happens when you have a hankering for some tea? How about airtime? You will need to be able to nip to the shop for something you need. The terrain in the hood should be supportive of your mobility device. That means that if you are on a wheelchair, living in a neighborhood where you have to skip over wet potholes and crawl over pebbles might not be the best for you. Forget that, how would you get from your house to the bus stage and back? The terrain in the neighborhood should allow you to wheel to the shop and stage comfortably.
If the building you like does not have features to support you then the landlord could allow you to install ramps in the unit and maybe at the building entrance. They could also allow you to install bars in the bathroom. Depending on your disability, you could need a media alert panic system in the house at different points like the bathroom. Speaking of which, you should find a unit that will be accessible by emergency response personnel. In this case, your comfort will be entirely in your hands. That means that the expense will be on you. In most cases, you will also be required to undo everything when you leave. You should therefore, be financially prepared to have all these things installed. The most probable scenario is that you will have to install it. There is not a lot of disability-friendly real estate in Nairobi that is also mid or lower tier. You might have to settle.
Your family and friends will definitely worry about you. Not because you are not perfectly capable of taking care of yourself but because there might be no one else in the hood that could check on you and help out if you need it. It is only natural that people who love you will worry especially if you are renting by yourself for the first time. You should therefore, invite your family and friends to see the new place and to see that you will be well supported. It would not hurt to live close to family and/or friends though.
Renting as a person living with a disability might make you vulnerable to some malicious parties. Some might view you as a weak person and therefor target you. You should put some measures in place to ensure your safety. An example would be to learn some self-defense moves so anyone who messes with you will learn their lesson. You could also get yourself a weapon especially if you keep late nights. If you keep a small knife somewhere on your chair you are at the perfect level to do some real damage. People are ruthless in this city, you should be too.
You should also have a trusted taxi person. One or two people who will pick you up after a night of partying and drop you right to your doorstep. This is Nairobi, there are many stories of taxi guys taking advantage of people in weakened states (read drunk). Such a person would take one look at you and assume you cannot protect yourself.
Many landlords in Nairobi build houses without consideration of all people. Most do not stop to think about people who might not be able to use the stairs or reach high knobs. This means that there is more to be done to promote inclusion for people living with disabilities. Until inclusion is exercised at all levels, everyone does their best to live full unencumbered lives.