Preparing to live on my own

Posted by Zack Collie in Life After Paralysis on December 16, 2019 # Lifestyle

I am very lucky and fortunate on how I got my affordable housing apartment. When I was in high school after my accident happened, my mom put my name on a wait list for a housing complex that was for individuals who had low income. After four years of being on the wait list and not hearing from the office about any new openings, my mom decided to go in and do a follow up. When she went in and asked if they still had my name on the wait list they said yes, but still didn’t have any openings for me. Being in a wheelchair I had to request a unit on the first floor in case of any emergencies. I did not want to risk living on a higher floor and having to deal with an elevator if anything bad ever were to happen.

The office manager told my mom that there was a new low-income housing complex being built next year. She gave her the number and told her to get me on the wait list as soon as possible. It had not been publicly announced yet that a new housing complex was going to be built, so my mom was thankful that the office manager told us about this before anyone else knew. My mom wasted no time and called the number to see when they were going to start taking applications. We got the date and made an appointment to start the application process as soon as we could. Thinking back now as I am writing this, I am so grateful and blessed to have found out about this new complex being built and starting my application process early on. Programs like these fill up so fast, and it can be years before there is ever an opening.

One of the things that was really important to me when I found a place to move into was its location and how far away it was from my parent’s house. I wanted to live at a close enough distance to where they could come over and help me, in case I was having an emergency. I really value spending time with family and did not want to move far away. The new affordable housing complex that was being built was only about a ten-minute drive from my parents, and in a great location. I was so excited and happy when I first found this out and it could have not been better timing. After a long wait of over four years and me almost finishing my bachelor’s degree, everything started to feel like it was falling into place. I had always wondered after my spinal cord injury if I would be able to move out of my parent’s house and have a place of my own.

Zack Collie outside his apartmentAfter completing the long and tedious application process, all I could do was wait and see if I got approved. A few weeks later I got the call that my application was accepted and they would have a first-floor unit available for me once everything was finished being built. I was overwhelmed and could not believe I got my own apartment. Something that I thought would not be possible for me was really happening and becoming a reality. One of the things I made sure I requested was a handicap accessible unit. According to their rules and regulations, the company had to make a certain number of units that were ADA compliant. When I first got to go into the new apartment, I went into the bathroom and saw that it did not have a roll-in shower. This worried me because I had only ever taken a shower that had a roll-in and never a shower over a tub. However, to fix this problem I ended up buying a special commode chair that allowed me to slide over and into the bathtub to shower. I did request that a roll-in shower be put in, and after a few months of waiting to hear back, they finally said I could get one, but I would have to pay for it.

The last thing I really had to figure out before moving in was how I was going to be able to get in and out of my apartment on my own. As a quadriplegic, I have very little use of my hands and fingers. I can’t open a door on my own and use a key to lock and unlock the door. I found a company called “Open Sesame” that installs doors that can open and close the lock from the push of a button. I contacted them and had their system installed in my door. I have been using my device for a few years now and I absolutely love it.

When I was getting everything together and preparing to move out, I only had to keep in mind a few things. I wanted to be on the first floor so in the case of an emergency I could open my door and be out of my apartment. I wanted a bathroom that was accessible and big enough for me to shower in. Although I did not get a roll-in shower, I was still able to make it work with a special commode chair that slides me over into the tub. I wanted it to be in a nice location and not far from my parent’s house, in case I ever needed them to help in an emergency. Lastly, I needed to be able to get in and out of my apartment all by myself. Everything else I would figure out and I have been living in my apartment for two years.

By guest writer Zack Collie

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.