The following content has been produced in collaboration with YPP: Student and Professional Lettings.
Finding somewhere to live is always difficult when you’re trying to balance a budget against the need for space and a good location, and for disabled people the problems are amplified significantly. First and foremost, we need to be able to enter a space to make use of it; a single step without a ramp or lift available is all it takes to stop me from being able to enter a building as a wheelchair user, immediately writing off a good number of houses and apartment complexes that could otherwise be considered. Similarly, narrow doors and corridors with tight corners are impossible to guide the wheelchair through without risking damage to the walls, the wheelchair, or even to my knuckles as they scrape painfully against a wall. It’s also important to consider the space required for accessibility aids, whether that be mobility equipment, a service animal, carers, or even where to park an adapted vehicle.
Fortunately for me, in January 2019 while searching for a new apartment in central Leeds to be close to my work, my husband and I discovered YPP’s series of apartment complexes half way between the city centre and the universities. In July of that year we moved into Q1 Residence and have lived there ever since. The location was perfect for our respective commutes and the rent was within our budget. Most importantly I could enter and exit the building with ease, and no longer had to worry about being stuck outside in the freezing Yorkshire weather when the only accessible route into the building broke, as I had at a previous apartment.
Within a few days of moving in I was offered a Personal Evacuation Plan, something that most schools and employers offer their disabled students or staff to help them escape an on-fire building if the lifts can’t be used. This was something I was very familiar with from being both a student and a member of staff at the university, but was not something I had ever seen in a place of residence. Needless to say, I was impressed.
Once we had settled in, additional perks in our new home came to light. When things broke they could be reported online with ease and issues were fixed rapidly; I even had help changing lightbulbs as mobility issues and balancing precariously on a step-ladder could only have disastrous results. When the hot water broke someone visited us almost immediately to fix it, which was significant for me as taking a hot shower is a primary form of pain relief that gets me through the week. Having help to fix things without being made to feel inadequate or incapable for needing assistance, and knowing that the help would reliably be provided, was extremely soothing for my anxiety issues.
There were, as there are anywhere, teething issues in regards to accessibility. The umbrella stand was originally placed underneath the button to release the lock on the main entrance to the building, but from the wheelchair this made the button almost impossible to reach. When I spoke to the team at YPP they were more than happy to move the umbrella stand to the other side, and I’ve never had to struggle to reach the button since. Occasionally bags and boxes would be left out in the corridors making it impossible to get the wheelchair through, but staff and the other residents soon learnt to either keep things in the flats or push them out of the way. Even the bin store, a communal area that is often completely inaccessible regardless of whether or not the main building is accessible, is an area I can enter from my wheelchair.
Most important of all was that, during the coronavirus pandemic, I had somewhere safe and warm to live and work. I had plenty of room to set-up a make-shift, and then a more permanent, home office for myself. The television mounted on the wall of the apartment provided plenty of entertainment and the communal garden areas allowed me to safely get fresh air as a clinical vulnerable person. It is remarkable that I rarely suffered from the “cabin fever” of being cooped up for so long, despite being someone who loved to venture out at every available opportunity beforehand. Now that things are opening back up I’m near to work and all my favourite shops, cafes, and pubs, and I’m even well-located for attending the various clinics that cater to my medical needs. There’s no such thing as perfection but my renting experience with YPP has been so much better than previous experience has taught me to expect, and we plan on staying for a few years at the very least!
For more information on how to rent with YPP, you can visit their website here.