Housing for Adults with Disabilities: Challenges, Discrimination, and Options


Home is more than just a physical place. It’s a warm, familiar feeling. Everybody deserves a living space where they feel happy, safe, and comfortable. Unfortunately, affordable, quality housing is not always easy to find. 


Particularly for adults with disabilities, finding accessible housing that meets their needs—and their budget—can be very difficult. Millions of adults with disabilities rely on Supplemental Security Income (S.S.I.) to meet their basic needs. As a federal program that provides financial assistance to people with significant, long-term disabilities, S.S.I. is oftentimes the only source of income they have. The unfortunate truth is that, in most cases, these payments are too low for recipients to afford housing. 


Having your own home is the cornerstone of independence for adults with disabilities. Let’s explore how to find an accessible, quality home by using available options and resources. 


Housing Accessibility


Most houses and apartments aren’t designed for everyone in mind. Individuals with disabilities often face architectural barriers such as stairs, narrow hallways, and high cupboards—making that space inaccessible to live in. Daily tasks that we take for granted, such as showering or washing the dishes, may be obstacles that require accommodations for others. 


For example, if a resident uses a wheelchair, their home requires several modifications, such as wider doorways, ramps, grab bars, roll-in showers, lower countertops and cupboards, sinks without bottom cabinets, a stairlift, and perhaps more. Without these accommodations, this individual would be unable to live in this house. 


Living spaces are accessible when they are designed to be user-friendly and safe. Providing this barrier-free physical environment allows someone’s living space to feel less like a building, and more like a home. 


Housing Discrimination


Housing discrimination is the illegal act of refusing to rent or sell a dwelling to someone based on their gender, race, religion, familial status, or disability. While the Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968 to prevent this kind of mistreatment, many people still experience housing discrimination today—especially people with disabilities. In fact, over half of all housing discrimination complaints filed in 2020 were filed by people with disabilities.


Several examples of housing discrimination against adults with disabilities include:

  1. The housing provider refuses to allow the individual to make reasonable modifications to the property, such as ramps, bathroom grab bars, and other necessary installations. 
  2. The housing provider refuses to rent or sell the residence to an individual on the basis of their disability—violating not only the Fair Housing Act, but also the individual’s human rights.
  3. The housing provider refuses to make reasonable accommodations such as allowing a service animal, providing a special parking place for a resident with mobility impairment, or using non-toxic cleaning products in common areas.
  4. The housing provider offers unfair terms and conditions, such as charging a higher security deposit for someone who has a disability. 


If you believe you have been discriminated against and would like to request reasonable accommodations, contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) to file a complaint. 


Housing Options for Adults with Disabilities


Given the proper accommodations and accessibility, many adults with disabilities are able to live on their own. If you require a bit more assistance, there are several options available for you to choose from. A lot of thought goes into choosing the appropriate home, so it’s up to you and your loved ones to decide what is best. Evaluate the level of care you require on a daily basis, the amount of freedom you desire, and what options are available in your community. There’s a right fit for everyone!


For those who are unable to live completely independently, here are a few housing options you may want to consider:


  1. Section 8 Disability Housing


The Section 8 program provides vouchers for people with low incomes, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities to obtain safe and sanitary housing in their community. In general, a Section 8 housing recipient pays approximately one-third of their monthly income towards the rent. The voucher pays for the rest. 


Section 8 vouchers allow people with mild to moderate special needs to live independently in the community, giving them the opportunity to expand their daily living skills. The only drawback? It usually takes years to obtain a Section 8 voucher, and appropriate housing units are not always available in the individual’s preferred community. But with adequate planning and research, Section 8 housing is a great option for an adult who has the ability to live on their own!


  1. Adult Family Homes


If you want to enjoy the benefits of independent living, but still need assistance from time to time, Adult Family Homes (AFHs) could be a wonderful housing solution! These residencies are often staffed with compassionate caregivers for round-the-clock help with tasks such as scheduling appointments and assisting with personal needs. 


Another incredible feature of AFHs is that you’re living among a supportive group of peers with similar needs. If you want a built-in circle of friends who end up feeling like family, an Adult Family Home may be the perfect opportunity for you. 


  1. Assisted Living for Adults with Disabilities


Individuals with disabilities may turn to assisted living facilities, where they live in their own unit within an apartment building or complex. Caregivers come to their units to assist with tasks such as bathing, administering medicine, and cleaning. In most assisted living facilities, residents have the freedom to cook in their own kitchen or share a meal in a communal dining hall. This gives residents many opportunities to socialize, but allows for alone time if desired. 


Covey Welcomes You Home


Covey, a non-profit organization located in the greater Fox Valley of Wisconsin, is committed to fostering growth for adults with disabilities. Independence goes hand-in-hand with personal development, so we couldn’t be more excited to get our very own Adult Family Homes up and running!


September 5th, 2023, is our target date for opening our 9th Avenue Starling House in Oshkosh. Some of these homes’ amenities will include:

  • Around-the-clock caregiving
  • Resident menu input
  • Planned activities
  • Freedom of home furnishing and decor
  • Three peer house-mates


Covey’s primary goal is to help our participants live their life to its fullest potential, and our Adult Family Homes will allow for a substantial step in that direction. These residencies offer an inclusive living environment for our participants who are seeking greater independence. We want to ensure a smooth transition during such a big milestone in their lives!


We can’t wait to watch our participants’ self-discovery flourish! If you or a loved one is interested in this opportunity, connect with us as info@covey.org