Need help with a move
November 13, 2012 7:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm seriously considering a move to Phoenix, AZ but need to gather a lot of specialized information first. I have a disability that causes me to use a wheelchair and employ personal assistants so I'm looking to learn from other disabled folk (or their friends or family) in the Phoenix area what resources exist, what the accessibility is of public transportation, apartment buildings and of the city overall. I'm also curious to learn whether AZ offers financial assistance to supplement the cost of personal care, but I have lots more questions than those. Any info shared would be much appreciated!!
posted by arizona80 to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am going to suggest you reach out to the Phoenix subreddit with your questions, too. I would be very surprised if no one stepped up with some solid answers for you.

(I have strong negative feelings about Phoenix, too, but that comes from growing up in Tucson, a greatly superior town. Go Cats.)
posted by Brody's chum at 9:38 PM on November 13, 2012

Another resource might be the local Center for Independent Living (a national network
Directory of Independent Living Centers
the one in Phoenix is
ABIL (Satellite)
2345 East Thomas Road
Phoenix AZ 85016

(602) 443-0701 VOICE
(602) 667-0318 FAX
posted by metahawk at 10:08 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, I've lived here almost five years, and I love it. I strongly disagree that there's no sense of community, the light rail is terrific, and there are some great restaurants and bars and coffee shops. But I have no experience with or knowledge of the disability services here.

OP, I'm sorry, but for some reason any mention of Phoenix seems to trigger the kind of reaction you saw above from some quarters. Not just on Metafilter. I hope some people come along who can actually address the substance of your question.
posted by Superplin at 10:11 PM on November 13, 2012

Phoenix plays Dallas to Tucson playing Austin; there really are some parallels there, from what Ive seen. Phoenix is plastic people with beautiful cars ram-jammin' all around their freeways. It seems to me pretty soul-less, if soul-less is a word, and even if it isn't. There are nice things there in Pheonix -- about 13 of them -- but the rest of it is pretty grim. Tucson is just more laid back, more art in the community, more art in the heart of that town. I love it there. Both cities have workers who go out at about 8:15 PM and roll up the sidewalks, by which I mean there's scarce a night life. And having lived in Austin these years, I know what a night life can be -- neither city has anywhere near Austin, but Tucson comes closer.

Hit me up on email if you want some inside stuff, I have a sister on disability, living in Phoenix. The place she lives is not the el-deluxo-joint you'd maybe want to find yourself in, but the people in that offie can maybe steer us into the right direction. Also, one of my best friends is keyed deeply into that community; she has for the past twenty years been in any number of cool jobs, related to addiction but also in rehabilitation therapy. At the very least she'd be able to give you a few names and phone numbers to call, and with her name to get through to them you'd maybe find doors opening easier than they otherwise might.

Sum: I like Phoenix, though I'd certainly never say that anywhere, or write it, because I wanna be cool, and Phoenix isn't cool, by a long shot. But they've a great fine arts museum (small, but very good), they've got this super-interesting library, just right on the same street as the museum, it's like 8 stories tall with this monster atrium in the center of the building -- I do love to go there. Sports if that blows your skirt up -- doesn't do anything for me but hey, maybe you'l like it.

Both Phoenix and Tucson are hot. HOT. No getting around that. But it's dry; here in Austin (and esp in Houston -- gawd have mercy)here it's not quite as hot as in Arizona but it is very soggy here. Most annoying. The presence of the heat is just a different way in Arizona, lays on you (me) differently. I took my mountain bike on one trip and get in a lot of rides, most over a hundred degrees but it's just a different animal, is all; drink plenty of water and you're fine.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:03 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Phoenix for 18 years, so I might be a bit better qualified to answer some of the questions about the city than someone who has suffered through it for a month.

First, the light rail and bus system are both extremely disabled-friendly. Light rail is brand new and thus fully ADA compliant and all of the Valley Metro buses are kneeling to my knowledge and very accommodating. The bus system can take awhile to get where you want, though, and light rail is valuable if you're traveling somewhere along the light rail line, which is basically a single line.

There's definitely culture, but you have to work for it a bit. Downtown Phoenix is pretty awful itself, but we speak of "Phoenix" as the entire metropolitan area and not the actual downtown. Roosevelt Row which is a few blocks north of downtown is a hipster/artsy/commune-y community area that's actually really great. They do First Fridays which becomes a huge hit during the cooler months (like now), and it's a great place to hang out.

We have a fantastic (ADA-compliant) science center, a wonderful modern/contemporary art museum, a great system of libraries (as dancestoblue mentions), a great ballpark (though a middling team last season), the fun of Spring Training if you're into baseball and enjoy OTHER teams, an insanely great highway system, which we need because Phoenix is basically a mass of sprawl, and a few other great things I'll get to.

For disability resources specifically, I'm not disabled and I don't have any experience on that front, but I drive past this place all the time: Disability Empowerment Center, which is run by the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living group, which seems like they'd probably be a fantastic resource for you to peruse.

To Scientist's critiques: it is hot. It is damn hot. No one could live here for as long as I have, through as many summers, and say otherwise. "Summer" runs from May allllllllll the way through early October. The worst months are June through August. I think we had 10 consecutive days over 110° this year. The rest are all over 100° during those months. This year, for 4th of July, we had 78° and rain. It was completely nuts. It also hit 115° a couple of times.

This is horrible, but it's also what air conditioning is for. And let me tell you: it's a dry heat, yes, but no one ever talks about how amazing that makes things for cooling back down. When you're in a humid city, and it's 95° + 80% rel. humidity, your entire core sweats and your body can't cool down and it's just disgusting. Even going inside can be a nightmare because you either freeze instantly or still take too long to thermo-regulate back to normal. Here, yeah, it's awful, but within 5 minutes of staying in the air conditioning, you don't notice. Everywhere you go is air conditioned. We don't play around. The light rail is beautifully air conditioned, as are the buses, but the stops are not and it. is. hot.

It's even hot at night. It sucks, but it can linger up around 90-95° even all the way until midnight. It's kind of crazy.

Then we have the rest of the year, which we've benevolently transitioned into this month. From here on out, it's highs of 70-80, with a "lowest" high of about 65 during December. You never have to deal with snow, ever, and you rarely have to deal with rain in any real sense. I think it rains about 35 days of the year, maybe? And about 85 days of partial cloudiness.

So it's hot for five and a half months of the year. The rest of the year is gorgeous.

The politics suck, and sometimes we're a national embarrassment, but that's just a fringe annoyance for me. The sprawl and lack of creativity can be a real bummer, I'll agree with that definitely. But there are gems. Plenty of cities built around the concept of strip mall sprawl: build a large outdoor mall concept with a Barnes & Noble, a few concept restaurants from a local chain place, a couple of boutique shopping places, and maybe a movie theater, and call it good. Build subdivisions and schools around it. You're set. That is a bummer. It's homogeneous and boring and shitty. And it's definitely what Scientist is referring to up above in terms of urban planning. Most of the Valley built out instead of up, and it sucks.

BUT there ARE great diamonds in the rough. There are communities that are worthwhile and clever and cool and well-designed, or historic, or new-and-modern-and-somewhat-dense. The Roosevelt Row area I mentioned (around Roosevelt & 7th St.) has some cool apartment complexes that I believe are accessible, some great culture by way of the Row proper, a cool co-working space nearby, some neat museums nearby, some great great restaurants nearby, and some other fun things, like a FilmBar, some great coffee shops, artist shops, etc.

Further up Central, in what I guess is... central Phoenix/midtown, along the light rail, there are some complexes, some great restaurants, aforementioned awesome museum and library, and some other cool stuff.

There's the Arcadia neighborhood in slightly-further-north Phoenix, if you happen to be somewhat well-off. There's Old Town Scottsdale if you happen to be well-off and also a bit of a douche. (Though Old Town has some GREAT restaurants, it also has an insane and definitely obnoxious bar scene. And some really old-folksy art galleries and weird gift shops.)

I live and work in downtown Tempe. Tempe is Arizona State territory, and downtown Tempe consists primarily of a single half mile stretch of road called Mill Avenue. Mill is a stretch of bars, restaurants, some retail, some offices (mine), some newer tech offices and agencies, and the city's cool government building, along with some beautiful, non-desert trees and which terminates with the Town Lake: a 2 mile long man-made lake to give us something of a waterfront that hosts paddle boats, sail boats, and the like. Tempe has great light rail coverage, though the light rail then veers on to Apache which is... kind of shantyville. The Phoenix metro area is well known for it's *stark* economic stratification. One second you can be in, literally, Little Mexico, and less than a mile away, near million dollar mansions.

Apache has great light rail access and because of that, some new complexes have gone up around it, but the rest of it is definitely a pit. And the further you go into Mesa, the worse Apache (which then becomes Main) becomes. Then it goes through downtown Mesa, which is pretty cool in its whitebread, Mormon sort of way. And then it goes downhill again, as it transitions BACK to Apache (seriously) and into the town/shantyville of Apache Junction.

This is by way of saying that there are absolutely, 100%, large swaths of space along the light rail that you'd want to avoid, no matter the inherent convenience factor. It definitely helps to know the area a bit, and if you find a place in particular, feel free to MeMail me and I'll give you the inside scoop on if it's stabville, usa or not.

Some other things of merit: we have a couple of great theaters and we're on the touring broadway circuit as a result, we have a couple of great art centers with great acoustics and architecture, we have some FANTASTIC dining, truly amazing places to eat run by gracious, amazing people. There is no shortage of a GREAT local food scene here, at all. The desert vibe can wear on you a bit, especially if you like green. I came from Jersey, so I miss that a lot, and I think I'd like it if it rained a bit more. But overall, I live in a cool building in a cool complex designed by a neat local architect, I have a half mile commute to work, I've made friends with great restaurant owners and artists, and enjoy the museums and galleries and such.

Yes, I wish there was a better music scene, a bit more greenery, a less vapid set of government officials, and more urbanization, but overall, we manage to enjoy building our lives here, even if we won't necessarily live here forever.
posted by disillusioned at 2:19 AM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

Basically, as a rule of thumb for where to look: within a 4 mile radius of PHX Sky Harbor Airport (NOT the other two airports, dear god no), and along the light rail. Light rail typically begets bus stops and good transit options. The rest are disconnected.

Oh, and additionally, we have a great zoo, an adjacent fantastic botanical garden, and a really cool aquarium, all of which are disabled-friendly. All things you'd expect in any major city, but which you may be VERY disappointed if it turned out we lack them. We don't.

And if you miss snow, it's only an hour and a half drive north to the "mountains" which makes for nice day trips in cooler climates.

Hope this helps!
posted by disillusioned at 2:30 AM on November 14, 2012

I don't know if you're interested in the university system at all, but in my time in Tempe, I came to recognize ASU's Tempe Campus as the single most wheelchair-friendly campus I've ever seen. There's a lot of recent construction on that campus, and a lot of though has gone in to making the buildings very accessible.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:30 AM on November 14, 2012

A close family member of mine recently relocated to Phoenix specifically because the climate is beneficial to her particular medical condition and because she can't physically handle winter on her own anymore, and we haven't run into any trouble so far finding accessible resources for her. Because Phoenix is not an old East Coast city, many of its buildings are newer construction which have considered ADA guidelines in their planning. As mentioned, the light rail is a huge plus, and as part of the city's sustainability plan, it is really pushing for increased development of an urban core around the light rail. This is a good thing for those of us who love public transport. In terms of general independent living questions, have you been to the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL) website yet? They have a ton of great resources targeted to help in questions just like this one.

While the negative things mentioned by some posters above may be partially true (or may have been in the past), Phoenix is a very cool town that's starting to plan for its future as a City, and I think you will find plenty of things to do and see. Phoenix proper is beginning to develop its own identity separate from places like Scottsdale (sometimes called "mini-LA"), and a lot of smart people are moving in to the area, bringing ideas and greater demand for urban amenities with them. I'm a current Tucsonan who has lived in a lot of "Real Cities", and I can tell you that while I've been skeptical of Phoenix's livability in the past, recent changes are making me reconsider my opinion. I agree that you should also check out Tempe, which is very pleasant indeed and conveniently on the light rail line.
posted by anonnymoose at 7:21 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, I forgot to add--you might contact the Department of Economic Security (DES) here in Arizona for information regarding what financial assistance may be available. Here's their page specific to disability resources.
posted by anonnymoose at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2012

Short anecdote but I had a friend who used a wheelchair who lived in a community outside of Phoenix (Anthem) and was really pleased with the general level of accessibility in the city. The newer construction was part of it as was the lack if winter so there are a lot of easier inside/outside transition spaced than you'd get in a place with winter. It's also the only place I've been to outside of a national Park that had an accessible hiking trail (that we went on and enjoyed). Apparently they have a bunch of barrier free trails which I think is a good indicator that the city is mindful of accessibility needs generally.
posted by jessamyn at 8:03 AM on November 14, 2012

Thanks to everyone who took the time to provide some really great insight into what it's like living in Phoenix and useful resources. Much appreciated!!
posted by arizona80 at 9:17 PM on November 14, 2012

I feel like I need to defend disillusioned's comment above "(NOT the other two airports, dear god no)" & also the Mesa-hate. Before moving here we heard so many terrible things about Mesa & it worried us because we had many expectations & requirements for where we wanted to live. We've been here quite a while now & we've found very few of the "facts" to be true. We currently live near the ASU Polytechnic campus & work at PHX Mesa Gateway airport. We love this area. Everything in our immediate area (Power Rd/Williams Field/Ray) for miles & miles in every direction is new (stores, neighborhoods, etc.). The only thing I've noticed is once you cross the 202 you can quickly find yourself in some shady neighborhoods but for the most part, unless you live in that area, then you would have no reason to drive through there since everything you could possibly need is within a 5 mile radius of your house, regardless of where you live. And I mean everything.

Yes, it's really, really hot here but if you like heat without sweating your butt off then you'll love it. We grew up in Alabama & we learned to loathe humidity from birth. We had no idea you could actually enjoy summer heat until we moved here. We got here in the heat of the summer (end of July) & from the minute we stepped out of the moving truck it was like a completely different planet..& it was 114 degrees. We work outside most of the day in the summer & we are rarely miserable. As long as you stay hydrated then you're fine. Like someone mentioned above, everything is air conditioned so the minute you step inside you cool down almost instantly. I feel like the people who complain about how miserable the heat is have never lived where it's 90% humidity for 8 months out of the year. Until you've experienced that then you'll never appreciate the dry heat of PHX.

I also want to add that the people here are all very friendly. We live in a highly populated Mormon area (the statistics are frightening) but we are a lesbian couple with a child & we have had nothing but good experiences. They may not "like" us but we have had no outward indication of that. To our faces, & more importantly to our daughter, they are welcoming & friendly. Of course we don't interject ourselves into their lives such as churches or whatever but as far as day-to-day life, everyone has been great. I always laugh the stereotype that Southerners are the suppose to be the friendliest people in the US because they have nothing on the people in the PHX area.
posted by peacelovecoffee at 8:36 PM on November 15, 2012

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