In Support of Adults Living in the Community

Whereas children with developmental disabilities belong in families and public policy should support this right (Center on Human Policy, 1987), adults with developmental disabilities should have the opportunity to pursue the same range of lifestyles as nondisabled members of the community. This statement reflects principles to guide states, agencies and organizations in supporting adults with developmental disabilities to live in homes, participate in community life, and pursue their individual lifestyles.

Adults, Regardless of Ability, Should Have the Right to Opportunity to Live in a Home of Their Own in the Community.

Adults should have the right and opportunity to live in typical, decent, safe, accessible, and integrated community housing.

States, agencies and communities should insure the availability of such housing for all of its citizens, including adults with disabilities. When necessary, government should provide housing subsidies for people whose incomes are insufficient to afford decent housing. Standards for evaluating the safety and decency of housing should be local housing codes.

Adults, whether married or single, should have choices about the neighborhood they live in, the style of community housing, and the people with whom they will live.

The preferences of each individual should guide all aspects of the selection of housing, including whether the individual will live alone, with their family, roommates, extended family, spouse or friends. The role of government, agencies and organizations is to determine how they can support the individual in meeting their needs and achieving their preferences.

Adults should have the same tenant and ownership rights and opportunities as other citizens, including the option to own or lease their own homes or apartments.

Government, agencies and organizations must be guided by the principle that adults should have maximum choice and control of their lives, including their housing. Instead of requiring adults with disabilities to live in agency owned or leased facilities, adults should be supported to lease or own homes, if they so desire.

Adults should have the opportunity to live in housing free from the conflicting relationship of landlord and service provider.

Housing and support services should be provided by separate organizations so the individual’s home is not jeopardized by a change in their relationship to the service provider. An agency might, however, assist people to locate housing, sign leases, negotiate with landlords, arrange architectural adaptations, and obtain subsidies.

Adults should have the opportunity to create a home of their own, reflective of their personal routines, values and lifestyles.

While the meaning of home is difficult to define, it includes the following features: a feeling of belonging and ownership, choice of who is invited in and who is not, an individual or unique atmosphere or tone, a place where one’s time is one’s own, and a place where the person makes mutual or shared decisions about their home environment. The burden of proof must be on the government or other outside parties who seek to curtail or limit the choices in lifestyles of peple with disabilities.

All Individuals Should Be Entitled to the Supports and Personal Assistance Needed to Live in Their Own Home and Participate Fully in Community Life

Adults should receive whatever personal assistance and supports they need to live fully in their own home and community with dignity, self-determination and respect.

Personal assistance services could include interpreting, homemaking, mobility assistance, social support, medical assistance, transportation, personal hygiene, reading, recreation, and decision-making, among others. Services and supports should be provided in a way that maintains and/or strengthens the adult’s personal relationships and social network.

Adults should have the option to live in their own homes in the community without risking the loss of material or personal assistance support.

Personal assistance and other supports should be available to adults with disabilities living in their own homes in the community. People, including those with severe disabilities, should not be required to live in an agency facility or to become impoverished to obtain support services.

Adults shall have maximum control over their personal assistance and other supports, with advocacy and support, independent of service agencies, in making these decisions.

The concept of personal assistance is based on the principle that all people have a way of communicating choices and that all people are unique in their preferences. Thus, supports must be designed to be individualized and flexible, since people with similar needs may prefer different solutions. When people have difficulty expressing choices, independent facilitation should be available.

Adults have a right to determine who will provide personal assistance and supports.

Personal assistance and other supports can be provided by a variety of people, including paid staff, volunteers, neighbors, friends, and family members. While each relationship will be unique, the adult retains the right to decide and negotiate who will provide these services, including hiring, firing, evaluation and training of personal assistants.

All Adults Should Have Opportunities to Participate in Community Life

Adults with disabilities should have opportunities to be involved with ordinary people on a partnership basis and to develop relationships with neighbors, co-workers and community members.

Community members can look for shared interests, share time and space with people, initiate relationships and demonstrate a sense of sharing for each other’s well-being. When government becomes involved, it should minimally not disrupt existing networks and connections, but rather to seek to support and strengthen relationships, and help build connections with community.

Adults with disabilities are entitled to decent, safe, and affordable housing; financial security to meet basic needs; health and medical care; and community transportation, employment and recreation.

Housing, recreation, health care, financial security, transportaion, and employment are social issues that require community not disability-based solutions. Individuals with disabilities should have access to the personal assistance necessary to use these community resources. Government, human service agencies, community organizations and people with disabilities should work together to insure these basic needs are met for all people.

Adults should have opportunities to contribute to the diversity and strength of communities.

Communities (towns, cities, suburbs, villages, associations) need to become more inclusive of all people, recognizing the unique contributions individuals with disabilities can and do make to community life. This diversity must include a recognition and celebration of the differences between urban and rural life and people’s ethnic and cultural heritage.