Registering as disabled can feel intimidating for a number of reasons, with many of them revolving around potentially lost opportunities. The American Dream dictates that anybody can achieve their goals if they roll up their sleeves and work hard enough, but what happens to the unfortunate individuals that are betrayed by their own bodies?
Thankfully, the nation’s government is ready to step in and lend a financial hand to many disabled Americans. The Americans with Disabilities Act has helped countless people that would otherwise by hindered by physical ailments take huge strides to receive the same opportunities as their able-bodied compatriots.
In addition, several funding streams are available to homeowners. Regardless of whether amendments are required to an existing house or apartment, or a disabled American is looking to climb upon the lowest rung of the property ladder as a first-time buyer, help can be sourced. This article will discuss these many and varied options.
Registering as Disabled
If you are curious about what financial aid you may be entitled to, you can use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST) to assess your circumstances. Please remember that this portal is for information only, however, and will not sign you up for any benefit packages.
In order to be eligible for any benefits, you will first need to register as disabled with the relevant government body. This is arranged through the Department of Social Security, who has their own judgment criteria for what they consider to be a long-term disability. The DSS will then conduct an investigation and decide which benefits you are entitled to.
The basic payment package for any disabled American is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is payable to anybody. The funding for SSI comes from the government’s central purse, having been acquired through taxpayers throughout the nation. In addition, many people will be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD), which is a private policy that provides money based on your own taxpaying contributions before becoming disabled (if applicable).
This is all basic stuff though, and information that many Americans living with disabilities will already have access to. Let’s dig deeper and take a look at what you’re entitled to with regard to your property.
Know Your Rights
First and foremost, it’s hugely important to know what disabled Americans are entitled to with regard to property. This largely boils down to the Fair Housing Act, a summary of which claims the following:
- Nobody interested in renting a property or applying for a mortgage can be declined on the grounds of disability.
- No disabled individual can be charged more than an able-bodied person would be for an identical property and access to facilities.
- No disabled individual can be lied to about the facilities within a property, including how disability-friendly it may be.
- No property owner may deny reasonable modifications to a property rented to a disabled tenant.
- An assistance animal, such as a Seeing Eye Dog, cannot be refused access or tenancy under a ‘no pets’ policy.
This means that, for example, a wheelchair user will be able to request that a ramp is installed to the front door of a property, or that doorframes are widened to match national recommendations, and a landlord will not be able to reject this. What you will notice, however, is that a landlord is not legally obliged to pay for making a rentable property more accessible to a disabled tenant.
Any modifications are expected to be billable to the tenant, and what’s more, the landlord can also insist that the tenant covers any costs incurred by removing these adjustments at the end of a residency.
Lets use bathrooms as an example. Widening bathroom doors to accommodate a wheelchair user will not be a reversible job, as it will not impact upon the ability of the landlord or future tenants to enjoy the room. If the tenant installs grab handles in the bathtub to make it easier to climb in and out, however, it’s a different story.
Not only will they have to pay for this work (including any potential reinforcement of the bathroom walls), but the landlord can also insist that the handles are removed when the tenant gives notice of their intention to move out. Again, the financial burden for this labor falls on the shoulders of the tenant.
Finding the money to finance these modifications can cause problems for many disabled people, as they can be costly to implement. Thankfully, there are a sizable number of grants available from centralized locations.
Sources of Funding
It’s list time. Now that the legal technicalities are out of the way, lets take a look at the many and varied sources of funding available to disabled Americans. Eligibility for any of these sources, in addition to the basic benefit entitlements that have already been discussed, means that everybody will able to turn their house into a home.
Of course, taking a grant may not be to everybody’s tastes. If a disabled American prefers not to accept direct funding from external sources (though it’s always worth remembering that such individuals are more than entitled to take the help that’s on offer!) To this end, this guide will also shine a light on mortgage brokers and lenders that tailor their offering specifically for disabled customers.
General Assistance and Advice
- Always discuss the impact of disability with Medicaid, as a policy may cover the cost of installing ramps and other home improvements to aid disabled Americans.
- The National Directory of Home Modification and Repair Resources offers a state-by-state summary of the advice and financial support that is available throughout America for disabled homeowners and tenants.
- The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is not a charity that centers on antlered wildlife, despite the name. Instead, this is a body of community-minded individuals that run local community fundraising projects to assist those in need – including disabled Americans that may require home improvements. Find your local chapter and get in touch.
- The National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) is a fantastic central resource for anybody wondering how to contact their local authority and seek the help that they may require.
- A USDA Loan, designed for individuals on low incomes, is a great way of helping somebody that may not earn a huge salary to purchase a home. Disabled candidates are particularly likely to be looked upon favorably when making an application. You can find your closest HUD agency here.
Grants and Charitable Ventures
- Modest Needs offer grants to a very common market in modern America – a family that is a little above the poverty line, but does not have sufficient household income to spend big on home improvements. This body can write a check that will help any family ensure their home is disability-friendly.
- [Re]Building Together is a not-for-profit venture that started out in a small Texan community and has now gone nationwide. This body calls upon professional builders and tradespeople to work on homes that require transformation, with particular emphasis on dwellings that house disabled Americans.
- The Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America (RESNA) Catalyst Project are at the very cutting edge of disability-friendly technology, and offer grants and loans in a variety of states to make any necessary home improvements.
- Anybody that suffers a disability due to an injury to his or her spinal cord should investigate the Travis Roy Foundation. This charity does place any age restriction on grant applications for anybody in need to ramps or other home improvements.
- Habitat for Humanity, often simply referred to as Habitat, build homes for vulnerable or disabled Americans. Even if this is not an option, Habitat offer special payment plans for anybody that struggle to find conventional finance for a disability-friendly home.
- Parkinson’s Disease can have a hugely detrimental effect on anybody’s quality of life. Thankfully the American Parkinson Disease Association provides grants and funding all over the country to assist people with home improvements.
- Lions Clubs International, a charitable body closely linked with Helen Keller, offers assistance in home adaptation for individuals struggling with their vision or hearing. Find your local chapter here.
Help for Seniors
The elderly are among the most vulnerable members of American society, and this is only magnified when disability is taken into consideration. With this in mind, certain charitable bodies have been established to aid such individuals. Advice and suggestions on how to make a home more comfortable for the elderly and disabled can also be obtained here, or by consulting the American Association of Retired Persons.
The National Association of Home Builders also have suggestions on how to ‘age in place’ – in other words, make amendments to an existing home that will keep it safe as residents grow older, and potentially disabled. The NAHB will not be able to assist with finances, though – try the below resources for such help.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development have devised the Assisted Living Conversion Program (ACLP) to aid senior citizens that require particular help with home modifications, particularly if they become disabled later in the life. This program includes home help for disabled individuals.
- Anybody over the age of 62 and living in a rural area on a low income can apply for a Rural Housing Repair Loan or Grant from their closest state office of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These funds can be used to finance any improvements that will make a home safer for disabled residents.
- Investigate the Federal Grants Wire for more information on the many varied grants available to senior citizens.
Help for Military Veterans
Of course, there are a great many brave men and women that the American government owes a debt of thanks to following their military service. Disabled individuals with a history of combat can apply for help from a number of sources. The previously mentioned Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks have a division dedicated to veterans, but there are a number of specialist bodies that offer grants to disabled military personnel.
- The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should always be the initial port of call, offering two official government-sanctioned grants.
- The Specially Adapted Housing Grant (SAH) is designed to help disabled veterans live independently. This could be used to build a new, disability-friendly home, make adaptations to an existing dwelling, or make up any cost difference between two homes if a disabled veteran is forced to move to more suitable accommodation.
- The Special Housing Adaptation Grant (SHA) is designed more for wounded and disabled veterans that intend to remain in their current home, and may require some financial assistance with amendments.
- The actor Gary Sinise shot to fame after playing the role of wounded solider Dan Taylor in the movie Forrest Gump, and he set up a foundation in his name afterward. The Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (RISE) program offers grants to improve a home, or build a new one, to allow any military veteran to live in comfort and independence.
- The Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2), part of the US Army Warrior Care & Transition initiative, is another resource of funding for former soldiers and their families that may need to make changes to their home following injury in service.
- The American Red Cross takes great pride on taking care of veterans, active members of the military and families impacted by service for our country. If disabled while on duty, this body may be able to offer financial help for necessary home adaptations.
This list has covered the nationwide help that is available for disabled individuals, but there may be a variety of other sources localized to particular states or towns. Be sure to do some investigation and look into such a possibility.
There is a substantial amount of help out there, and there is no need to face the difficulty of disability alone. Together we are all stronger – accept any support that may be available, and ensure that any home is safe and accessible for disabled residents and tenants.
We have linked to a variety of different external sources throughout this article. See below for a summary of the many and varied bodies and resources that will be happy to help.
- American Association of Retired Persons – aarp.org
- The American Red Cross – redcross.org
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – ada.gov
- Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST) – ssabest.benefits.gov
- The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks – elks.org
- Department of Housing and Urban Development – hud.gov
- Department of Social Security – ssa.gov
- Fair Housing Act – justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-act
- Federal Grants Wire – federalgrantswire.com
- The Gary Sinise Foundation – garysinisefoundation.org
- Habitat for Humanity – habitat.org
- Lions Club International – lionsclubs.org
- Medicaid –medicaid.gov
- Modest Needs – modestneeds.org
- National Council of State Housing Agencies – ncsha.org
- National Directory of Home Mods and Repairs – homemods.org
- [Re]Building Together – rebuildingtogether.org
- Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America – resna.org
- Travis Roy Foundation – travisroyfoundation.org
- US Army WC&T – wct.army.mil
- US Department of Veteran Affairs – va.gov
- USDA Loans – eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov