Increased Availability of Accessible Housing Is a Must

Photograph of Mariah Kilbourne in her college dorm roomBy Guest Blogger Mariah Kilbourne, Ms. Wheelchair America 2013

Freedom! Independence! As an eighteen-year-old college freshman, I was bound and determined for those things to become mine. As I crossed the threshold of my college dorm the first day of the semester in 2007, I was beginning a new journey. For the first time in my life, I was on my own. It was thrilling, yet terrifying – I felt joy, excitement and a little trepidation all rolled into one. I was on my way to become all that I was meant to be. Many steps led up to that moment, to making that life-changing leap of independence possible – including going to college, driving my accessible van and living on my own.

I have been a mover and shaker since the day I was born – three months early. I just could not wait to get my start in the world! Due to my premature birth, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. My cerebral palsy affects the way my muscles move, so I rely on a wheelchair – a.k.a. “The Beast” – for mobility.

For a long time, the thought of living on my own made me anxious. I was the kid who called my mom at 3 a.m. during sleepovers because I wanted to come home. I had never been to sleepover camp without my mom as a chaperone. When the time came to consider living on my own in a college dorm, I adamantly told everyone it would not be happening. I was 110 percent convinced I would be a commuter student, and I would not consider otherwise.

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Moves to Independence Include Home Ownership

Photograph of Ken, Dick and John by a river

Ken, Dick and John by the river.

By Guest Blogger Jan Nowak, Communications Director, Bethesda Lutheran Communities

Home. One word, many meanings. For Ken Larson, Dick Servatius and John Zidlicky, three men with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the definition of home has changed dramatically during their path to independence. For years, Ken and Dick called the Bethesda Lutheran Communities residential facility in Watertown, Wis., “home,” while John lived with his parents until he was 35 years old.

Years later, in the mid-1980s, home changed for all three men when they became residents of a Bethesda 24-hour supervised group home in Aurora, Ill. There, the opportunity to learn new skills advanced their desire to live with greater independence in a smaller home setting. Their definition of home changed again in the early 1990s when the men moved out of the group home and into an apartment.

Then, in 2003, the opportunity of a lifetime was made available to them. Bethesda staff learned of an Illinois state government program for first-time homebuyers and helped the men apply. Supported by Bethesda for years, Ken, Dick and John seized every opportunity to learn skills that would advance their independence. They were ready for this move, and once Bethesda presented a plan to family members, the men took the bold step to purchase a house.  Now 10 years later, the men have once again redefined their meaning of home. Today, Ken, 57, Dick, 65, and John, 58, are the only homeowners of the nearly 2,000 people Bethesda serves in residential settings throughout the country.

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Finding the Right Home for You

By Guest Blogger Moe Veissi, President, National Association of Realtors®

Realtors® help people into homes every day, but for our clients with disabilities, homeownership can present its own challenges. As president of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), I’m proud of the association’s work in support of accessibility and assistance for people with disabilities.

NAR provides its Realtor® members with training and resources to help them better assist all of their clients, including those with disabilities. NAR provides guidance for Realtors® on finding specialized contractors for home modifications and resources for identifying financing programs that can help buyers with disabilities adapt their new home to meet their needs. In addition, NAR’s At Home with Diversity® certification teaches Realtors® how they can increase their sensitivity and adaptability to future market trends, including awareness of inclusion and fair housing laws.

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FHEO Issues Guidance to Assist Persons with Disabilities Transitioning from Institutions

     Picture of man's hands holding a minature house

By Guest Blogger Bryan Greene, General Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity  

Today, I’m pleased to inform readers of recent guidance that HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) has issued to assist persons with disabilities in making the transition from institutionalization to community living. The Guidance issued on August 11th, reflects FHEO’s commitment to ending the unnecessary isolation and segregation of persons with disabilities by eliminating procedural barriers to securing publicly funded housing opportunities.


For decades, a consensus has been developing that the isolation and segregation of persons with disabilities is a violation of human and civil rights. This is apparent in the legislative history of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and in the voices of disability advocacy groups that demanded freedom from unnecessary confinement and segregation of persons with disabilities.

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New Study Shows National Average Rent is More Than Amount Received by People with Disabilities on Supplemental Security Income

This report, Priced Out in 2010 – The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities, shows that in 2010, the basic cost of shelter, represented by the average rent for a modest one bedroom apartment, was more than the entire income of an individual receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Federal housing affordability guidelines state that low-income households should pay no more than 30% of monthly income towards housing costs, or about $211 per month for someone who receives SSI. Priced Out also reports that there was not one state or community in the nation where a person with a disability on SSI could afford to rent housing without a permanent rental subsidy.