by Caroline Hampton, Open Educators

It can be tricky to know what your rights are as a disabled renter or homeowner, but rest assured, there are laws put in place to help disabled individuals achieve the residence they’ve always wanted–and needed–and being familiar with them can help you when it comes time to choosing a safe, beautiful place to live.

According to federal law, a disabled individual is “any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment”. It doesn’t matter if you live in private or public housing; your rights are the same anywhere. These rights protect you from discrimination, ensure you have access to the same accommodations everyone else does, and keep you safe with laws regarding accessibility. There may also be federal financial assistance available to help you with rent or mortgage payments.

Here are a few of the most basic rights you have as a renter or homeowner.

Discrimination

Federal law prohibits homeowners and renters from discriminating against a disabled person, meaning they cannot refuse to sell or rent to a person based on their disability. You have the same rights as everyone else when it comes to finding housing; furthermore, after you move in, you’ll be expected to follow the same rules as any other renter would. Landlords cannot change the rules or make only certain rules apply to you.

Accessibility

If you are a renter, you have the right to ask for changes to be made within a reasonable scope. These might include safety bars installed in the bathroom, a wheelchair ramp, or anything that would help you function safely in your daily routine. Often, these changes are made at the renter’s expense, but there may be financial assistance available. According to the HUD website, “if you live in Federally assisted housing the housing provider may be required to pay for the modification if it does not amount to an undue financial and administrative burden.”

In multifamily housing with four or more units (and an elevator that was installed for use after 1991), there are very strict building codes that must meet accessibility guidelines. These include:

  • Accessible Entrance on an Accessible Route
  • Accessible Public and Common-Use Areas
  • Usable Doors
  • Accessible Route Into and Through the Dwelling Unit
  • Accessible Light Switches, Electrical Outlets, Thermostats, and Environmental Controls
  • Reinforced Walls in Bathrooms
  • Usable Kitchens and Bathrooms

If you are considering buying a home, it is well within your rights to make sure the doorways are a particular width and countertops are at a reasonable height.

Knowing your rights will help you find the safest and most comfortable living space available. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and become as informed as you can on your potential new accommodations.

As a parent and teacher, Caroline Hampton, strives to promote cultural awareness through the power of information. She is passionate about helping parents and teachers spread knowledge to their children. For more information visit openeducators.org.