Disability Resources, Activism Need to Focus on Accessible Housing

Patricia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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My disability rights activism includes housing issues. Affordable housing gets a lot of attention (no solutions, but attention, at least). Accessible housing, not so much. Like the invisible symptoms of multiple sclerosis, the need for affordable ACCESSIBLE housing remains hidden.

Accessibility needs to be part of the dialogue

I spoke up for mandatory accessible affordable housing at several meetings on the topic during the last few months. Audiences murmured their agreement with my comments and nodded their heads. Speakers acknowledged that lack of accessible housing is a problem, too.

Since I have been speaking up, people have approached me to participate in larger actions. Raising awareness does not solve the problem. There are quite a few groups actively working to get more affordable housing built in my city. Now, we must include accessibility as well.

Collective community activism

In the City for Good, in the Rochester, Minnesota, area, had meetings before I became an activist. I am ready to participate in organized groups now. After I spoke at the public comment period for our city council meeting, a gentleman named Bob recommended I join In the City for Good.

I checked it out. One of its teams focuses on affordable housing. Bob sent me an email and told me the group did not have a team for disability rights. We agreed to start one. We both remain involved in the affordable housing team. (Note to self: Work to change the category name to include accessibility.)

Centers for independent living

Another local group is the Southeastern Minnesota Center for Independent Living, known as SEMCIL. Its website contains pages of links to resources. The SEMCIL group offers programming for people with disabilities. I am now participating in its community leader training program. This is a grant-funded program offered through the University of Kansas, called Community Tool Box.

Topics included in the workbook cover:

  • Creating and maintaining coalitions and partnerships
  • Advocating for change
  • Influencing policy development

The National Center on Independent Living website covers politics and legislation at the national level and disability issues. It has an online newsletter called the Advocacy Monitor. A recent opening page advocates contacting federal legislators to denounce proposed Medicaid cuts.

ADAPT ― American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (original acronym)

ADAPT began as a community group protesting the lack of accessible buses in Denver, Colorado, in 1983, with earlier roots. It is a national force as well as active on the local levels in chapters nationwide. Members of ADAPT have been protesting at congressional offices in Washington, D.C., and at the state-level offices of congressional representatives.

Its website contains a “museum” album full of images from newspapers of the bus protests and other historically significant actions they have taken over the decades.

ADAPT ― Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs Today
(current acronym)

After the battle for wheelchair-accessible buses was won, ADAPT has pursued housing-related disability issues. Personal care attendants are crucial for many disabled people to remain in their homes and live independently. We just need a little help sometimes. Families are smaller and spread all over the country these days.

Social justice requires that there be a safety net to help people live their best possible lives. Medicaid provides support for personal care attendants (among many other things). With the proposed funding cuts, people with disabilities like MS will suffer.

The ADAPT housing platform recognizes that lack of appropriate accessible housing leads to the involuntary institutionalization of people with disabilities.

Future disability activism on accessible housing

As part of the community leadership program, I will be researching sources and resources for accessible affordable housing. The crisis will not be resolved easily or soon. I will keep you posted.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Sueideh avatar


Please let me know to accessible housting because I live in section8 apt without any accessibility ?I'm 50 year's old and need to help after myMS (?)


I am sorry but I cannot help you in any way. My article is focused on encouraging people to help themselves by actively pursuing local resources and legislators to consider people with disabilities when approving housing developments. Try calling your local social services or section 8 housing authority to find out if any accessible section 8 housing is available at all, and if so, maybe get on a waiting list if that is what it takes.

Sueideh avatar


In my opinion government should give the MS patient home facilities


I am working as an activist to persuade legislators to mandate universal design as part of all multi-family developments, particularly as part of "affordable" housing dealmaking. This is NOT good enough though. What I want to see is "cluster" or "pocket" developments that are MS and related disability priority renters or owners. We are all stronger together and living proximately to each other would provide understanding neighbors and possibly help (I can drive, but someone can't, so they could come with me when I go shopping mutual support.). Having a "concierge" owner of the development would be where an able-bodied person (perhaps with an MSer spouse) could be available in exchange for break on housing cost and/or Medicaid home care assistance funding, to help with some routine difficult things for MSers: changing a ceiling lightbulb, smoke detector batteries, maybe vacuuming or related household chores as well. It is a dream. This society has become "your problems are not my problems" and "Not with my tax dollars!" because of the conservative mantra of "wage work or die" as the only "moral" way to live.


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