Community Starts at Home: Toward Equitable Housing for People with Disabilities

Authors: Andrew Myers*, University of Montana, Lillie Greiman, University of Montana
Topics: Disabilities, Human Rights, Social Geography
Keywords: housing, community, disability, social justice
Session Type: Interactive Short Paper
Scheduler ID: THU-010-3:20 p.m.
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Studio 10, Marriott, 2nd Floor


Access to the city is a fundamental human right (Lefebvre 1968). Housing movements have drawn upon “the right to the city” to advocate for more equitable housing policies (Mitchell and Heynen 2009; Aalbers and Gibb 2014). The use of this concept to advocate for housing is rooted in an implicit association between housing and community; they are mutually dependent. There is no community without housing, no housing without community. Securing affordable and accessible housing has long been a struggle for people with disabilities. Institutionalization has historically alienated and excluded people with disabilities from participating in their communities. Landmark legislation such as the Fair Housing Amendments Act (1988) and the Americans with Disability Act (1991), and supreme court rulings like the Olmstead decision (1999) are expanding access to community life. Nevertheless, significant limitations remain. For example, the complaint-based nature of enforcement limits the impact of fair housing law and single-family homes are often exempt (Silverman, Patterson, and Lewis 2013). A lack of affordable and accessible housing forces people to live in homes that do not accommodate their needs and abilities (Imrie 2004). Equitable housing for people with disabilities should focus on providing the same opportunities that people without disabilities are afforded in their homes (Gibson et al. 2012), and as such, the same rights to community life. Our discussion will explore how home design and housing policies deny access to participating in community life and implications for rural communities.

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