DISABILITY is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities.
~Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
According to a 2018 federal report by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, “it is estimated that on any given day nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of individuals experiencing homelessness (86,962 of 369,081 individuals) are people with disabilities.”
Some challenges faced by people with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness:
- Physical disabilities that require the use of a mobility aid (such as a wheelchairs or walker) make it difficult to live in a tent, a car, and even in many shelters.
- Chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and anemia are often inadequately controlled and may go undetected until after permanent damage has occurred.
- Many suffer from invisible disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, depression, and learning and thinking differences such as ADHD and dyslexia. Invisible disabilities also include chronic pain, fatigue, and dizziness. When the disability is invisible, it often goes unaccommodated.
- Cognitive impairment is both a risk factor for, and perpetuator of, homelessness (research report).
There are countless other barriers faced by people who are unsheltered and each obstacle is even harder to overcome when disability is a factor. Remember the last time you provided care for someone you love who was temporarily or permanently disabled. Now, imagine doing all of that in a tent – without running water, or heat, or electricity. And don’t forget the freezing rain; we ARE (after all) in Tacoma and heading into winter.
What Can We Do About Accessibility?
- Know, and follow, accessibility requirements. See the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website
- Modify problem areas (whether or not legally required to do so) to achieve “barrier-free” public spaces and shelter options.
- Ask Julian (Julianfwheeler@aol.com) about how to apply for funding for such improvements.
- Promote a national home modification program through the National Housing Trust Fund to create additional low-income, accessible home-sharing options.
- Create adequate shelter space for medically fragile people and additional funding to assist people in monitoring and managing their chronic conditions.
- Help educate others about “invisible disabilities” and the need to make accommodations for these.
More about Disabilities and Homelessness
- Serving persons with disabilities: Legal responsibilities of emergency shelters (Fair Housing for Persons with Disabilities)
- Disabled Homeless Advocacy Project (DHAP. King County)
- Homelessness in America: Focus on Chronic Homelessness Among People With Disabilities (2018)
- Recognizing and Addressing Housing Insecurity for Disabled Renters (2021)
- Homelessness and disabilities: the impact of recent Human Rights developments in Policy and Practice(Housing Rights Watch, International)