SIMSBURY -- Ojakian Commons is New England’s first affordable, disability supportive rental apartments.
Jay Contrastano was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010 and after a few setback he was struggling he felt like his independence was gone, and so was his hope for the future. Then he learned about Ojakian.
“My reaction to it was kind of star struck, just amazed and surprised that there was a building that was extremely accessible for every little thing that I wanted to do or needed to do."
Ojakain provides a barrier-free environment that's designed and developed with the national MS Society.
So everything is wheelchair friendly: counters , appliances, hallways, doorways, closets, even automated door-openers. It's all adjusted for fully independent wheelchair living.
Moving to Ojakian definitely made life easier for Jay, but, it’s not just about convenience.
"When I stopped worrying about those little frustration of how to get things, just basic help, things changed. I felt like I was myself again!”
Mark Ojakian knows all too well how difficult and unpredictable MS can be. His father battled the disease for nearly 40 years, his only sister has it and so does his brother.
“It’s a horrible disease and you can have different degrees of MS but having seen my family struggle first hand has really made an impact on me so this is really my passion,” Ojakian says.
Ojakian has been a tireless advocate for people living with MS. He's raised critical funds to support local programs and help make Ojakian Commons possible.
Inspired by Jay and others who live with MS every day, Ojakian says he’s proud to help provide important services that weren't available when his family needed them.
“To see people who can come into Ojakian Commons and live a full life without any of the limitations that would affect them in regular housing -- it’s just incredible,” he said. “Every time I drive up I get a little choked up because my dad, I think, is looking down and saying, ‘ good job'.”