My husband left Montgomery County 20 years ago an ambulatory young man and returned a quadriplegic -- a fully-employed, college-educated, professional quadriplegic. He uses a wheelchair for mobility, and he remains in it all day.

We have spent the past 18 months looking for affordable, accessible housing in Montgomery County and have been frustrated at every turn. Homes are priced at the top of their market value, making the additional $10,000 to $20,000 for modifications unaffordable on our combined income.

Condominiums are not required to provide accessible units, and there is little motivation for them to do so; making changes in individual units is costly, because they buy materials in quantity. They are not required to make adaptable housing, and there is little reason for them to assume the extra cost.

Apartments offer the most hope, since they are required to make a certain percentage of new units accessible to the handicapped. As I have shopped for new apartments, I have encountered that:

the apartment cannot be seen before it is rented;

floor plans exist for standard apartments but not for units for the handicapped. (All people in wheelchairs are not the same; they have different capabilities and needs);

blueprints are available, but they cannot be taken away from the site;

rental offices and model apartments are not accessible;

only the units for the handicapped are accessible in the new complexes, so one cannot visit new friends in their apartments;

one rental agent who told me they had to make some apartments accessible to the handicapped, but they could "choose" any kind of handicap; consequently, fewer units were being made wheelchair-accessible;

a new apartment complex in Olney had two- and three-bedroom accessible units, but they were only for "income-eligible" handicapped. We make too much to qualify. ELAINE SLOAN Silver Spring