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Making Your Home Accessible

  • Published: 2014-05-20 (Rev. 2016-10-19) - Contact: Laura Chapman at laura@cpmtray.com
  • Synopsis: Information regarding available options for converting a house to be accessible by people with disabilities.

Main Document

"If you have the finances to make loan repayments you could consider taking out a loan to finance your accessibility improvements."

Are you struggling with inaccessibility issues around your home? Injury, an unwelcome medical diagnosis, surgery, worsening disability or even aging can rob you of mobility and the independence that came with it. Your once beautiful home can become like a prison if you are unable to use all of your rooms or leave the house without assistance. You may think that your only option is to buy a disabled home - something that is out of the financial remit of many people - or move into sheltered housing, but before you sell up or leave your rental home, there are lots of ways you can raise the funds to modify your home so that you can continue to live there independently.

Finding the Funds to Help You

You may not need to use your disability benefits to fund adapting your home. There are plenty of other avenues:

For a grant - If you have a low budget and need a donation in order to pay for your adaptations you may be able to apply for a grant from the National Council for Independent Living. Centers for independent living are governed and staffed by disabled people for disabled people and they can also assist you with peer support, helpful information, referrals to other agencies that may be able to help you or specialized independent living skills training should you need it. You can call them toll free on 877.525.3400 or email ncil@ncil.org

Christian Fund for the Disabled may be able to provide a one - time grant to disabled Christians. The grant must be for a disability-related need. Finances are limited and it would be helpful if applicants had a matching sum offered by a supporting organization. The fund can also give money to churches to enable them to assist disabled members of their church. If you are religious, it might be worth speaking to your pastor about your independent living needs and whether or not your church has the funds to help you. You can also contact Christian Fund for the Disabled by calling 818-707-5664 or emailing kcandish@joniandfriends.org

Home Improvement Structural Alterations - If you are a service man or woman who has become disabled in the line of duty you may be able to get a grant. You have to have been hospitalized in the last year and have the relevant medical reports stating that you need the alterations to your home. You can get up to $4,100 for installation of disability aids (for instance, stairlifts). If you are a member of the armed forces but you sustained your disability for non-service reasons, you can only apply for up to $1,200. Please contact the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for more advice.

If you rent

If you rent your home then you can ask your landlord if he or she would pay for adaptations to your home. Federal law insists that housing is accessible to the disabled so if your housing isn't, your landlord is obligated to make it accessible or allow you to make the necessary modifications. As the adaptations would make the house comply with the law and increase its value, your landlord may be happy to fund them. If not, he has to allow you the right to make any adjustments either with your own funds or a grant or loan. If you have become disabled as a result of your occupation, for instance, by asbestos inhalation in the workplace, you could be entitled to some compensation that would help pay for your disability needs.

Taking out a Loan

If you have the finances to make loan repayments you could consider taking out a loan to finance your accessibility improvements. Your local area agency from the Department of Housing and Urban Development can advise you on grants and low interest loans. If you are over 60 you may be able to take out a home modification loan for older adults. Depending on what state you live in, there are also loans for parents of children with a disability

Paying for Adaptations with SSI

If you receive Supplemental Security Income, a disability benefit, you can save part of this income in a special scheme to raise money for any alterations you might need to make to your home. This safeguards your benefit as sometimes a grant may be taken into consideration as an asset which may affect your eligibility to receive benefit. For more information about the SSI Savings Plan, see PASS.

Buying a More Suitable Home

If you are a home owner and you have decided that your existing home no longer meets your needs, you have the option of selling it and moving to a new home (for instance, with larger rooms to accommodate a wheelchair or a large enough bathroom for a walk-in shower). Recent housing regulations prevent anyone from discriminating against you when trying to find a house so a bank cannot refuse to give you a mortgage because you are disabled and a person cannot refuse to sell you their home on the basis of disability. The law also prevents any other kind of negative discrimination during housing transactions, whether they be for mortgaged or rental properties. If you would like more information on fair housing law or you wish to speak to a disabled right's advocate, you can contact The American Association of People with Disabilities. They can advise you on a wide variety of issues and may be able to assist you with finding transportation if your ideal home is too far away.

Remember, it is your right to live in a comfortable home that you can actually use independently.

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