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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.