Housing for Individuals with Disabilities: Emphasizing and Providing Choice and Diversity

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the blog this week! We hope you enjoyed last week’s discussion of our community building non-profit Integrated Living Opportunities and the ways in which we are helping young adults with disabilities achieve full lives in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. Just as a further update – the November 7th potluck event was incredibly successful, with many current and prospective participating families mingling, sharing stories, and networking. At ILO, we are all about creating long-lasting connections and we are so happy that we were able to facilitate another successful event. As a side note, we still have room for families to participating in our February 11/12th New Futures initiative Training session in Evanston, Illinois. To learn more about this training, please click here. To register, contact us.

Now – to jump into today’s post. As those of you familiar with ILO are aware, one of the driving motivators for the creation of this organization was the conviction that all individuals with disabilities are individuals first, meaning that each adult with disabilities that wishes to live independently has his or her own specific set of needs and wants, likes and dislikes, wishes and dreams. We set out to help families help their self-advocates create communities that suit their own unique personalities. For today’s post, we would like to take the opportunity to continue to focus on helping adults with disabilities create successful, integrated, full lives for themselves, by talking about diversity, choice, and personalization in housing for individuals with disabilities,.

Housing for individuals with Disabilities: Choice and Diversity

Today’s blog was somewhat inspired by a recent HuffPost blog article, titled “Disability Housing: A Diverse Population Needing Diverse Options”, written by Micaela Connery. In this post Connery, an advocate for inclusion, takes a well-needed look at the way that society often generalizes when it comes to creating housing options for individuals with disabilities; as she summarizes perfectly: “An unfortunate reality is the fact that disability is often overlooked as a public policy, community development, or diversity priority. Then, when it does get acknowledged, I’m always surprised by how often very educated people, even those with heightened sensitivity around issues of diversity and inclusion, make grossly generalized statements about ‘the disability community’.” Connery is trying to do more than just shine a light on the problem, however; she also provides a solution. Or, rather, she directs us to an organization that is providing a solution: Looking Upwards.

Looking Upwards, located in Rhode Island, provides supports and services to more than 700 people, all with a diverse range of disabilities, and across a spectrum of ages. This organization set out to do something that not many other organizations do: put the individual first. By working creatively within (and sometimes outside of) the limitations of the current HCBS residential settings, Looking Upwards prides themselves on “meeting diverse needs and supporting choice through the customization of housing and support services.” It is the view of this organization that housing is personal, and as such should be personalized. As Connery writes, “Most would be horrified if a policy limited all black people to one housing option or said one service was universally needed by all immigrants. But we make those kinds of assumptions and generalizations for people with disabilities all too often.”

Once an individual finds a housing option that meets that needs, Looking Upwards doesn’t close the book on that case. As Connery points out, a living situation that may be desirable to an adult in his or her 20s is not desirable to an adult that is a decade older; as individual’s age, their housing wants and needs evolve. This is no different for individuals with disabilities – and Looking Upwards recognizes this and has a plan put in place. Due to their diversity policy, Looking Upwards works with individuals as they age and their needs and wants evolve, providing some much needed consistency and support as face the challenges of evolving needs and changing residences.

At the end of the day, as Connery puts it, “the idea that one type of service or housing model can meet the needs of the entire disability community is misguided. What one person with a disability needs, or perhaps even more important, what they want in housing and supportive services isn’t the same as another person. And what people need and want may change throughout their life.” It is heartening to know that there are organizations out there that recognize this, and provide the necessary services.

Integrated Living Opportunities: Creating Communities of Support Networks

Here at M&L and ILO, we completely agree with Connery – the individual comes first. That’s why the New Futures initiative™ training, which ILO facilitates in partnership with M&L and Center for Independent Futures, teaches person-centered planning and community building. We build these communities for our self-advocates, based on their hopes and dreams for a fulfilling and successful future.

From ILO’s perpsective, there are incredible benefits to creating your own community for your family member with disability. In addition to helping him or her achieve independent living, a personalized community – built from the ground up – means that you are not required to follow any “one-size-fits-all” rules that other housing programs have in place. You have complete autonomy over how you want to create this community, how it is paid for, who lives there, where it is, and what the services/supports will look like.

The best part of creating your own community is this: By joining ILO, and taking part in the New Futures Initiative™ training, not only will you have control over how the community is created and how it will look, but you will also have access to the tools, resources, knowledge and systems of support to ensure that your family member with special needs lives independently and happily. And if, as Connery points out, your self-advocates needs and wants evolve and change as he or she grows, you will have an existing network of support already in place to help make any necessary changes.

Would You Like More Information?

Thank you all so much for dropping by today! We hoped you enjoyed today’s discussion of the importance of diversity and choice in housing for individuals with special needs. We also hope that you were inspired to check out our community building non-profit, Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO), to learn how we help our self-advocates build lives for themselves according to their hopes and dreams.

If you would like more information on housing, community building, ILO, or how M&L can help you with any special needs financial/life planning task, please contact us! There is nothing we love more than meeting and talking to new families.

So, that’s it for today – please join us next week for a look at employment for individuals with disability. Hope you see you then!

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