Celebrating the Anniversary of the ADA

July 26th marks the 27th anniversary of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Signed into law in 1990, the ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. It guarantees that any public or private place that is open to the general public offers the same opportunities, access, and rights to everyone - regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

Though the ADA addresses public places and not private homes, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was amended in 1988 to include the prohibition of discrimination based on disability in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings. The Act also contains accessibility provisions for the design and construction of certain new dwelling units.

Most newly constructed single family homes are exempt from the requirements of the Fair Housing Act. But Habitat for Humanity International supports and promotes these concepts, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) has very specific accessibility requirements for projects they support. Habitat for Humanity of Michigan administers MSHDA funding for Habitat affiliates in the state, and therefore implements MSHDA standards for any home utilizing these resources. Many other housing program funders require similar measures that guarantee such equal housing opportunities.

The design and construction of new housing is the single opportunity to ensure that homes can be visited or lived in by nearly anyone without substantial and costly adaptation and remodeling. Known by many terms including accessible, visitable, Aging In Place, Inclusive Design, adaptable, Barrier-Free Design, Zero-Step and Universal Design, though these concepts and programs vary greatly, the basic intent of each is to achieve access and use by people of varied abilities.

Habitat embraces and works toward social justice and equity. Ensuring that our homes can function for people of any ability is a part of our mission. We have mastered the ability to design and construct our modest homes to efficiently address nearly any need. By doing so, families can remain in their beloved homes even when their circumstances change. Friends and other family members can visit and stay at any time regardless of their ability to navigate obstacles. If an unfortunate event ever requires that their home be made fully wheelchair accessible, minor adaptation and alteration is all that is necessary to meet any and every accessibility need. Remaining in one’s home is one of the strongest desires of aging Americans.

Celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26th. The intent and outcomes of this act and others has opened our eyes to the many ways we can treat each other more fairly and equitably. Respect and dignity have no limits.

To learn more about the ADA, view the pledge, and sign on, please visit the ADA Anniversary website: https://adata.org/ada-anniversary

Thom Phillips

Housing Director