Accessible, Affordable Housing Is Not Optional

Patricia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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wheelchairs in MS patients

Accessible housing is not optional for people with disabilities. Poverty and disability too often combine for too many people. It is one thing to know this double whammy exists intellectually. To see the impact in a person packs a visceral punch that cannot be denied.

Think of how profoundly moving images of people attempting to rescue a beached whale affect you. Then think about how you feel reading an article on whaling ships. The first instance has far more impact on the concept of “save the whales,” but the second instance is far more crucial to actually saving all the whales.

Affordable vs. accessible housing

Affordable housing gets considerable attention. Housing crises exist everywhere these days. I have been standing up and detailing the need for ACCESSIBLE affordable housing to my City Council and other groups to no avail. No one seems willing to act.

My city’s deals increase profits for developers but do nothing to give a break to tenants. The deals affect just a token number of designated affordable units. I suggested to City Council that there be a mandate for universal design elements in all housing in the city. The responses all say it can’t be done. The excuses I’m given include the high expense, state law, building codes, unwilling developers — the list goes on.

It makes me wonder how we ever got laws passed to require interior bathrooms or electricity as part of common minimum housing “amenities.” Speculative, or spec, development is the norm today. Only well-off people can afford to build custom homes. The rest of us get cookie-cutter housing developments where everything is the same. Bulk purchases of standard items makes for sensible and efficient building ― for the able-bodied.

People with disabilities are not cookie-cutter people. We cannot live or sometimes even visit cookie-cutter dwellings.

Accessible ― only if you can afford it

Like all of America’s safety nets and labor laws and other so-called protections, a closer look reveals them to be inadequate. Last week at our City Council meeting, a woman ― in a wheelchair ― became a hero to me. She was being evicted from the house she had rented for six and a half years because the owner sold it. It was to be torn down for a new multi-unit luxury apartment complex, so she had to move. She needed an accessible home immediately, and she had run out of options. She came to plead with the City Council to help her find a place where she could live and afford. They listened and helped. Just like people willingly help one stranded whale but ignore the deaths of hundreds.

I wanted to be able to speak. To stand up and say, “I TOLD YOU SO!” Or, “This is what I have been talking about!” But “Robert’s Rules of Order denied me the chance to reinforce my position that action must be taken for accessible housing.

The Fair Housing Act “solves” the accessible housing problem in useless ways. In her case, the landlord permitted her to remodel the house AT HER OWN EXPENSE, with a ramp ($2,000) and other features. No landlord must allow accommodations, even with the tenant paying for them. Worse, the landlord may require the tenant to PAY FOR THE REMOVAL of all accessible improvements when they leave!

She is now out the money, has no extra money to do it all over again at another landlord’s rental, and cannot afford “market rate” rent. As in all cases where market rates are touted as if they are valid, what they really are is a license to exploit and profit from vulnerable people with limited or no alternatives.

Fight for truly fair housing

I am not prepared to spend the rest of my life watching people with disabilities suffer with living choices equivalent to requiring them to live in a home with an outhouse instead of modern plumbing. Speak up! Make change happen.


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.


carl avatar


So true we don't have a chance no one cares if we're not working and paying taxes we are forgotten but our governments will spend billions to help illegals are foreigners of all Nations get what they want and need but we are forgotten I am a 22 year veteran truck driver that was struck down with MS they put me on med that hurt me more than helped me Congress and the Senate especially the Democrats Don't Care about us..

Ann LaFontaine avatar

Ann LaFontaine

I’m in the same boat

Alicia Angelozzi avatar

Alicia Angelozzi

I'm homeless sleeping on someone's. They no longer want me staying here. I have no one help with all these papers or really how to get Emergency Housing. I scared & afraid I'll be out in the cold in this week.
Please Help

sherry walker avatar

sherry walker

I totally understand, my landlord served me a 3 day eviction notice because of plumbing problem. I am currently looking into some social service place to help me with this financial situation.

elenor avatar


this is old this broke my heart i have issues typing what state and i hope your situation is better

Eldon Knutson avatar

Eldon Knutson

It would be nice to not have to worry about how you're going to be able to rent an apartment I used to own two houses and company cars a good job but now I have MS and can't do anything I don't even have a place to live I stand in board and Care home I've been there seven years that's horrible filthy feed City people are awful they verbally abused everybody it's just a complete f****** toilet excuse my language everybody with MS as some kind of trial and tribulation but there's really no excuse for us to not have a place to live how can people with disability be can't work not be able to afford the cheapest apartment that's subsidized in the county of Los Angeles unless you want to live in Summer complete rat-infested ghetto it's time the government stepped up to the plate and started providing housing to people that are disabled look at how many homeless people are wandering around they're not homeless because they want to be there homeless because they're mentally handicapped I don't think they do anything if I was homeless just chilling tough s*** see you later

Christi avatar


I absolutely agree with you on 95 percent of what you said. I have MS and my story is very similar to yours but I just don't know what the Democrats have to do with anything

Andrew Wood avatar

Andrew Wood

Indeed, it is not easy to live in a cheap apartment with no lift and it becomes worst when you are in a wheelchair. Especially during this pandemic situation when you can't go out and earn and you have no money to pay your rent and other expenditure.


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