Currently, no AODA standards require houses and apartments to be accessible. However, the Third Review of the AODA recommends the creation of standards mandating accessibility in housing. These standards could start to reverse the current shortage of appropriate housing for people with disabilities within their communities. As a result of this shortage, many young people with disabilities now live in long-term care homes that captor to older adults. Requirements and guidelines in the AODA could mandate more accessible community housing, so that more people with disabilities could make positive housing choices.
More Accessible Community Housing is Needed
Community Living Supports
At present, few housing options give people with disabilities the forms of support they need to live independently. For instance, some people with physical disabilities use support persons to accomplish daily living tasks, such as:
- Personal grooming
Alternatively, some people with intellectual disabilities use different forms of support for household activities such as:
- Meal planning
- Attending appointments
Some people with disabilities accomplish all these tasks using supportive housing or programs. For instance, some people receive funding to employ their own personal support workers. Likewise, people may use support services to make some of their daily living decisions. In both cases, people can live in homes of their own, within their communities. People may live alone, or with spouses, children, or friends. Some people live in dwellings they rent or buy for themselves. In contrast, others may live in homes, buildings, or neighbourhoods with other people who have similar support needs. These options give people the chance to form bonds with friends, neighbours, and colleagues as they move freely through their towns or cities.
Lack of Supports
However, these options are not available for all people who need them. As a result, many young adults with disabilities continue to live with, and receive support from, their parents. When their parents age, and can no longer provide support, middle-aged adults sometimes move into nursing homes geared toward older adults.
These settings separate young or middle-aged people with disabilities from their pursuits and interests, including:
- Leisure activities, such as sports or art
While long-term care homes offer support with physical tasks and leisure programming, these supports are geared toward older adults. The needs of most nursing-home residents differ widely from the supports that would help younger people develop and pursue:
- Career goals
- Athletic interests
Moreover, nursing-home placements may prevent people from learning or using daily living skills, such as:
- Choosing when to start and end their day
- Meal planning or preparation
- Travelling independently to pursue goals or hobbies
Finally, nursing homes share some features with the large institutions for people with disabilities that once existed in Ontario. These institutions have been closed because staff members frequently abused and neglected residents. While nursing homes aim to treat residents humanely, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed similar abusive and neglectful conditions in some long-term care facilities.
In addition to this possibility of inhumane treatment, both nursing homes and institutions separate their residents from the rest of the community. Likewise, in both spaces, people’s physical needs are cared for according to the schedule of staff. In short, the trend of placing young people with disabilities in nursing homes seems dangerously similar to the choice to place them in institutions. These residents lose opportunities to make their own choices about where to live, and who to spend time with. Instead, they live in settings not equipped to support people who may work, travel, or socialize on their own schedules.
Housing within the community, rather than separated from it, gives people access to a high quality of life. When people can freely choose the supports they need, they gain the freedom to make many other choices. As a result, AODA housing standards should mandate expansion of supportive housing in Ontario. All people should have the same opportunity to direct their own lives, and to live among their fellow citizens.