UNDERSTANDING ACCESSIBLE HOUSING: THE FAIR HOUSING ACT
You know how difficult it can be to get around on crutches or in a wheelchair. You may need a wheelchair ramp or wider doorways in order to enter a building or even your own home. An accessible home is one that allows its occupant to do what he or she wants and needs to do, as independently as possible.
T he good news is, if you or your family member has a disability that requires special housing accommodations, you're protected under the Fair Housing Act. This includes military installation housing. If you or someone in your family is disabled, your home may need specific modifications to make it accessible for daily living. Fortunately, through the Fair Housing Act, there are laws that require property owners to make, or allow residents to make, a home accessible for those with specific or special needs.
THE FAIR HOUSING ACT
The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to:
• Make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. A property owner, however, is not required to make changes that would create an undue financial or administrative burden.
• Allow people with disabilities to make reasonable modifications. Property owners must allow residents to make changes to their units if those changes are necessary for the tenant to use the unit fully.
The Fair Housing Act also makes it illegal — based on your or your family member's disability — to:
• Refuse to rent a dwelling or to accept a legitimate offer
• Refuse to rent a dwelling or to accept a legitimate offer
• Evict someone
• Use different applications or criteria
• Segregate people to specific units or areas
• Ask if anyone has a disability
• Refuse to make or allow reasonable modifications or accommodations
The Fair Housing Act applies to most housing options. In fact, many states have fair housing laws that provide even greater protections. For your specific state law, contact your public housing agency.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that the Architectural Barriers Act requires access to all buildings designed, built, altered or leased with federal funds? According to the United States Access Board, at least 5 percent of each military installation's housing is required to be either accessible or readily and easily modifiable for accessibility.
In privatized housing on military installations, property managers are required to make reasonable alterations and accommodations that abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act at no cost to the tenant.
WHAT FAMILIES WITH SPECIAL NEEDS SHOULD DO PRIOR TO RELOCATION
The availability of affordable on- and offinstallation housing varies from one location to another. Military families withspecial housing requirements should contact the housing office or the Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator at their new duty location as early as possible. You can find contact information for both of these resources through militaryinstallations.dod.mil
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS FURTHER RESOURCES
• Learn more about how the Exceptional Family Member Program and how it can help you and your family.
• Read the Fair Housing Act article, Fair Housing - It's Your Right
• Check out the Equal Opportunity for Individuals With Disabilities fact sheet to learn about legal protections for individuals with special needs
HOW TO HANDLE ACCESSIBLE HOUSING DENIALS:
• If you've been wrongfully denied accessible housing, you should:
• File an administrative complaint. You can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development within one year. To bring action under state law, contact the responsible state agency.
• File a private lawsuit. You can file a suit in federal court within two years. However, deadlines for state court actions vary.
Moving is stressful, but for military families with special needs it can be even harder. If you or your family member has specific accessibility needs, reach out to your new installation's housing office for help in finding a home that has everything you need to make your life as easy and comfortable as possible.
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People with disabilities no longer have to rely on assistance from total strangers. Person-center planning helps individuals with disabilities direct their own lives. Individuals with disabilities and their families now have more options to plan housing, work, finances and more. The military supports these efforts. Here are some questions and answers that can help you better understand person-centered planning, how it can help and how you might fit into the process.
WHAT IS PERSON-CENTERED PLANNING?
• Brings the individual together with a team of family, friends, neighbors, employers, community members and healthcare professionals to find out what is important to the person with the disability, now and in the future
• Matches the wants and needs of a person with a disability to existing services, adapts existing services to better suit the person or creates new services if required
• Gives people with disabilities and their families more control over services and the direction of their lives
• Helps people with disabilities accomplish their goals and fit in and contribute to society in a personalized way, rather than passively accepting services based solely on their diagnosis and condition
• Finds ways for the person with the disability to develop the skills and abilities needed to work toward achieving his or her goals and having more control in his or her life
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PERSON-CENTERED PLANNING?
The benefits of person-centered planning:
• Focuses on the person with the disabilities, not the planner
• Focuses on the person's strengths, not deficits
• Helps alleviate isolation, stigmatizing labels, loss of opportunity and loss of hope
WHAT ARE SOME BASIC PLANNING OBJECTIVES?
Person-centered planning aims to help the person with disabilities do the following:
• Live in the community
• Choose his or her own services and housing
• Develop his or her own skills and interests
• Be treated with respect
• Find a valued social role
• Find meaningful independent relationships
WHO MAKES UP THE PLANNING TEAM?
• An unbiased facilitator: Facilitators encourage brainstorming during the meeting and help identify friends, family or professionals that can help keep the plan on track.
• Advocates: Disability service advocates can help get resources, talk about options, help with evaluating plans and services, and help the person with the disability become a self-advocate.
• Family members and friends: Immediate and extended family members and close friends can weigh options and help with informed decision making.
HOW DO YOU BUILD A TEAM OF ADVOCATES?
• Exceptional Family Member Program: Your installation Exceptional Family Member Program family support office and Military OneSource can assist with finding person-centered planning facilitators and resources. Although facilitators and related resources will most likely come with a fee, a consultation with your installation Exceptional Family Member Program or Military OneSource is free. Call 800-3429647 to speak with a consultant.
• State-Provided Resources: State-provided adult services specialists may be available in some states. You can search for programs and organizations providing advocacy at Disability.gov by entering "advocate" and your state.
• University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities: A Center for Excellence is another great resource for finding person-centered planning facilitators. To locate a center in your state, visit the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities website.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
The more you know about how you fit into the planning process, the more you can help meet the goals of the person with the disability. To assist with planning, it's useful to become familiar with some of the following:
• Preparation: An Internet search for "person-centered planning tool kit" should provide resources to help you prepare for the planning meeting.
• Disability services and rights: People with disabilities have certain rights under the law.
• Resource entitlements: Many benefits for people with disabilities are available. Visit Disability.gov to find out what Social Security benefits, medical services, employment, housing, transportation, respite care and other forms of assistance are available at the federal level. The site also has links to state benefits.•