McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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January 9, 2014

Housing features accessibility

McALESTER — Being able to pass through a doorway or fit into a bathroom may not be a concern for some people. For others, it is a daily problem, sometimes even in their own homes.

Here in McAlester, some of these frustrations will soon be set at ease.

Rock Ridge Apartments, located at 808 E. Jefferson Ave., is a 15-unit one- and two-bedroom apartment community for very low-income adults with physical disabilities. An open house for the community is set for Jan. 31 from 1 until 5 p.m. and Feb. 1 from 8 a.m. until noon.

The facility was developed by St. Paul, Minn., firm Accessible Space Inc., a non-profit sponsor and developer that worked closely with the McAlester based non-profit sponsor Oklahomans for Independent Living.

“OIL reached out to us and we’ve been working closely with them,” Devin Vander Schaff, a marketing representative for Accessible Space Inc., said Tuesday. “We’re very pleased we will soon be able to show what we’ve been working toward at the open house.

“After about three years, it is finally coming to fruition.”

Rock Ridge Apartments is the first accessible, affordable apartment community in Oklahoma, developers say. Each unit includes features such as accessible stove tops, roll-under counters and sinks, large roll-in showers, 36-inch wide doors with lever action handles, as well as raised electrical outlets and lowered light switches, all meant to accommodate the needs of adults with disabilities.

Vander Schaff said he is expecting official permission to occupy the apartments from the government on Jan. 17. This final piece of paperwork is all that is needed to open the doors of Rock Ridge.

“Market research shows there is such a need for this type of housing and these types of facilities all across the state,” Vander Schaff said. “Accessible housing for people with physical disabilities was particularly needed in McAlester.

“One of the most exciting things about the open house is that we will have a lot of professionals on hand to answer any questions folks may have.”

Vander Schaff said some examples of common questions include specific qualifications for living on the premises, as well as concerns about living independently. 

“We are ready for everyone to come see what we may be able to offer folks in the Sooner State,” Vander Schaff, said. “We have apartments available for adults with disabilities that are completely accessible. They aren’t even necessarily meant just for people who use wheelchairs. They are built for adults with any mobility impairment, as defined by their medical professional.”

Examples of these mobility impairments include any individual who uses a cane or walker, or possesses a visual or hearing impairment. Applicants with other physical disabilities or traumatic brain injuries may also qualify.

Vander Schaff said applicants must simply have a medical professional sign a verification form to determine if they qualify for housing at Rock RIdge Apartments.

The apartment community was funded through a grant by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Applicants must pass necessary screening checks and meet income requirements, Vander Schaff said. Residents who qualify will pay rent totaling 30 percent of their monthly household income.

“We are very pleased to be in Oklahoma and with our first project in McAlester,” Vander Schaff said. “We are looking forward to the open house and meeting some of our potential applicants. Everyone interested can finally see this project for themselves.”

Contact Trevor Dunbar at tdunbar@mcalesternews.

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