You might think that the most important criteria for living with a disability in a city would be things like the quality of medical facilities, a mild climate that wouldn’t impede chair-users, good transit systems, and accessible housing. But it turns out that when adults with disabilities rank cities, they balance these with the same intangibles anyone else would: great cultural opportunities; a real sense of community; and a welcoming spirit.
Here, in no particular order, are five U.S. cities that disabled adults say make great places to live.
Most people think first of really snowy winters and assume that disabled people belong anywhere else. But the summers are beautiful and Minneapolis merchants have had to accommodate everyone’s desire to be out of the winter snows. The Minneapolis Skyway System connects most of downtown with climate-controlled, enclosed walkways. No snow, no ice, no problems. Cultural venues are also very accommodating. At the epic First Avenue music club, chairs get front-row seating.
Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco have been “Ground Zero” for the U.S. disability rights movement, so people often choose to live there despite the frequently challenging terrain and limited accessible housing. Local resources considered among the top in the nation include the AXIS Dance Company and Sins Invalid; the Ed Roberts disability community centre in San Francisco; and The Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University.
For those who use a manual chair, the hills can pose challenges. But the mild climate and lack of snow are plusses. Add to that a public transit system that has been ranked among the country’s top 10. The location on picturesque Puget Sound makes a ferry ride into an inexpensive cheap day cruise vacation. Finally, the community is open to a wide variety of people, which extends to accommodating people who are disabled.
A low cost of living makes independence easier for adults, and a strong faith-based commitment to care for others makes services more available than in many cities. One of the most remarkable among these is the wide availability of accessible Section 8 housing, which allows low-income disabled adults to use government vouchers to fund their rented homes.
Winters are tough, with snow and high winds. But as a city known for its strong sense of community, Chicago is also a city where the community of people with disabilities is strong. The Access Project engages people with disabilities in theatre; the transit system has been improving. And its close-knit neighborhoods embrace disabled neighbors just as they embrace everyone else.
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