Saturday, June 09, 2007

Appartments offers some units to the visually impaired

When the Seneca Place apartment complex opens in February, the exterior probably won't appear much different from any other project.One distinction, however, is the residential units that will be available for blind and visually impaired people. Six of the 40 units at Seneca Place, 300 Pine Trail, will be allotted for those with a vision disability.

The project is a partnership between Conifer Realty LLC and the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired-Goodwill Industries of Greater Rochester Inc.

ABVI-Goodwill regularly gets calls from its blind and visually impaired clients who need housing, said Marketing Director Tim Gleason. The agency typically refers them to residential providers, but Gleason said the issue is challenging.

"This is a unique opportunity for us to respond to a request that we get all the time," he said. "It is a great public/private partnership (and) a great step forward."

Some of the amenities for the six units include lights under the kitchen cabinets for those with limited or "low" visibility, a contrast between the floors and walls distinct to the touch, and knob controls on the front of the stove and other appliances, rather than buttons.

The common areas of the complex will also have accommodations similar to the units for the visually impaired tenants, said Andrew Bodewes, a project director for Conifer Realty.

Blind or visually impaired residents "will be able to acclimate," he said.Throughout the complex, a one-bedroom unit will rent for $469 a month, a two-bedroom unit will cost $565, and a three-bedroom apartment will cost between $624 and $643.

Not everyone is in favor of Seneca Place.M.J. Schmitt, who sits on the ABVI-Goodwill consumer advisory committee, is concerned about the accessibility of public transportation near the property.
"The very bane of our existence is transportation," she said. "It's going to be difficult for people to live out there."Schmitt, who is blind, said she grew up in eastern Irondequoit, lived for several years in the Rochester area and Chicago, and has never had problems finding housing. She now lives in Henrietta.

There is a Regional Transit Service bus stop nearby, according to Bodewes and Gleason.There is a bus stop at Monroe Street and at Maplewood Avenue, and both streets are near the project site, said spokeswoman Myriam Contiguglia of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority. At this point, she said, RGRTA has not been contacted by Conifer Realty or the village of Honeoye Falls about adding a bus stop to service Pine Trail.

An ideal living environment for someone with a disability encompasses more than physical living space, said Michael Godino, president of the American Council of the Blind of New York.
He said a developer should also note whether a grocery store or shopping center is in close proximity when constructing housing for someone with a disability.

"We have to consider the whole realm of accessibility," he said.In addition to extra lighting and appliance knobs at Seneca Place, Godino suggested putting handles on the apartment thermostat and other amenities for those who are blind.

No applications are being taken at this time for the complex, but Bodewes hopes this won't be the last partnership between Conifer Realty and ABVI-Goodwill.

"We've already had discussions with ABVI to do more projects like this," he said.


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