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Relocation, Relocation, Relocation: The Cost of Moving
The reflection on previous experiences
When I was a student, I moved fourteen times. The process was a no-cost one: locate the nearest empty shopping trolley and travel back and forth, loading and unloading. My September relocation, from, Gloucestershire to Durham, has caused me to think fondly of the ease of those earlier, pre-wheelchair-user, days.
I have been putting off writing this because it’s hard not to sound spoilt. My latest move is, in many respects, a privileged one. It is to a home I have chosen, I have the support of friends and family, and I had some savings. It has also been exhausting and I have repeatedly discovered that accessible means expensive. I’m not able to teach, at the moment, so budget options would have been useful.
The emotional toll of extra disability costs
The worst thing is that the additional financial burden came with an emotional toll, reminding me that my impairment is worsening, that I don’t have many choices and that access, for disabled people, is still so poor.
The moving process
We made lots of move-related decisions that could have been cheaper if I had better mobility: the estate agent that did viewings, the packing service, that I Initially kidded myself I didn’t need, and the pricey removal firm. We needed one that could leave us with furniture the night before setting off because sleeping and sitting on the floor are skills I no longer possess, particularly when I have a long car journey the next day.
Our new home itself
It’s a bungalow, somewhere flat, with space to add an accessible bathroom and it should still work if I lose more mobility. I like it a lot, but it came at a premium and there weren’t many available.
The worry of things not meeting your needs
And then there is the risk of spending money on the wrong things. I don’t mean a sofa that looked great in the shop but seems to have doubled in size once it’s in my living room. I’m talking about higher stakes, the physical and health consequences of making a bad purchase.
Will my new home be warm enough to keep my muscles moving?
Will the wheelchair routes to bus stops be as good as they seemed when I tried them out?
As I type this I am nursing the kind of grazed knees that look more at home on a five-year-old because I fell foul of a kerbstone, tipped into the road and was forced to face the reality that I am more at risk in unfamiliar surroundings.
And the new sofa, or mattress, or bathroom.
Will they help my independence, or will I make the wrong choice and be rewarded with worse pain, less energy, end up feeling foolish?
Will I have to settle for grey functionality, or will I be able to afford, or even find, furniture, fixtures and fittings that make me happy when I look at them?
Will my move, after all that money has been spent, make me feel more disabled?
The changes that moving to a new house cause
My first few months in Durham have also underlined how much disabled bureaucracy costs. I have had to apply for a new Blue Badge, bus pass and congestion zone exemption. To do these things I have needed internet, a phone, printer, envelopes and stamps. I am lucky and can afford them but many disabled people cannot. Yet again there has been an emotional cost. I have had to chase, repeatedly list what I cannot do, make complaints and worry that, this time, I might not qualify.
It may be that money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly buy mobility. Ideally, my move would have come with a new power-assist wheelchair. I guess that most people who relocate to Durham might need a new pair of shoes, to tackle the numerous hills and cobbles, and this is my equivalent. Unfortunately it would be at least a hundred times more expensive than new footwear.
A chauffeur/PA and WAV, at least for the first few months, would have transformed my settling-in. I don’t know my new area, have a brain injury that makes driving, and memorising routes, impossible and it’s winter. Don’t get me wrong, I can use public transport, but I have lost my repertoire of accessible places in the move and I need to build a new one. By bus, the process is slow, emotionally draining and weather-dependent.
After all of that, I am enjoying getting to know a new place but my reserves have taken a knock. Disabled people will often have to face relocating because of a worsening health, or financial situation, just when those reserves are at their lowest. We need a society that better understands our needs and can support us as those needs inevitably change.
Need help with the costs of moving? Take a look at information and advice.
Have you faced extra costs when moving to a new house? Do you need extra support to settle in? Let us know in the comments below!