Casey is the founder of iChoosemyplace which seeks to overcome the barriers experienced by people with disability in choosing where to live and who to live with, in establishing mutually enjoyable non-paid relationships. Casey has lived experience of disability and has over 15 years experience in the disability sector. She has received awards for innovative practice that promotes social justice principles. Casey is a member of the NSW Council for Disability which is the official advisory body to the NSW Government. Casey seeks to “create liberation” with and for people with disability in all aspects of life, with a particular focus on quality relationships.

This next paragraph is shocking and should never have had to be written, so prepare yourself.

You might be surprised to learn (I know I was) that large institutions that were erected in the early 1900s were built so as to house people with intellectual disability due to the eugenics movement that was rampart in the United States and the United Kingdom at that time. This was with the aim of preventing people with intellectual disability, the “feeble-mindedness” or “defectives” (let’s not continue the extensive list of negative terms quoted), from “continuing to multiply and for the “safe progression” of the human race, sterilisation was legalised. So what has this got to do with housing?

At about the same time a guy called Alfred Binet came along with an Intelligence Test (what we now refer to as the IQ test). It was originally developed to identify children with intellectual disability so they could be segregated at an early age. Once diagnosed as “sub-normal” using the Intelligence Test, the person was placed into state ‘care’ (I write that with bleak sarcasm), thereby alleviating the alleged ‘threat’ to society and to the human race at large.

Wow… does it not take your breath away? Read more here.

This was the standard practice until the 1960s when large residential institutions began closing, in part due to the recognition of the social isolation faced by its residents. Some large residential institutions remain open today.

The new way to support people was to establish group homes where a few people with disability shared a house. People didn’t get to choose where they lived or whom they lived with, it was on a system of placement availability. This is highlighted by one case documented in the Shut Out Report (2009);

A woman with a physical disability was forced to move into a group home with two men with autism when her family was no longer able to support her. The woman feared for her safety as she had no way of defending herself when she was hit by one of the men…

Many people in the disability community refer to group homes as ‘mini institutions’. People living in a group home are still socially isolated; they are in a congregated setting which separates those living in such an arrangement from the social norm.

In 2008, Australia ratified their commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability, which includes people with disability having the right to enjoy the same rights as everyone else including the right to choice and autonomy and the right to live independently in the community.

The NDIS attempts to bridge this gap, in theory, as quoted from their website (June 2019):

The NDIS will assist participants to live independently. This includes:

  • Supports that build people’s capacity to live independently in the community, supports to improve living skills, money and household management, social and communication skills and behavioural management
  • Home modifications to the participant’s own home or a private rental property and on a case-by-case basis in social housing
  • Support with personal care, such as assistance with showering and dressing
  • Help around the home where the participant is unable to undertake these tasks due to their disability, such as assistance with cleaning and laundry.

https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/housing-and-ndis

So the question remains, how can we move to a place where people with disability are able to access this funding in such a way as to genuinely be able to choose where they live and who they live with? What are the conversations that need to be had to start getting people with disability accessing rental properties and getting the supports they are entitled to as described above? (I would absolutely love to hear from you about the barriers you are facing here!)  

Part of it starts with community perceptions, just the way it did a century ago.

One option that has popped up and seems popular at present is to set up houses and advertise for people with disability to move into them; with that model we need to be asking;

How involved are the existing tenants in finding the new housemate?

Do the tenants want a new housemate?

Okay, what are the options? Etc.

A consistent measure of quality of life in the Western World is social inclusion, which includes having the choice and control over where you live and who with who you live, what steps can you take;

To change community perceptions?

To change conversations?

To change situations?

To change systems?  

Focus Act. (2015). Australians with disability: Changing attitudes to their rights, abilties and lifestyl. Retrieved from  http://focusact.org/wpcontent/uploads/2015/08/Attitudes-to-Disability-MVerick-2015.pdf

Mansell, J., & Beadle-Brown, J. (2012). Active support: Enabling and empowering people with intellectual disabilities. London, United Kingdom: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

McVilly, K. R. (2012). Positive behaviour support for people with intellectual disability: Evidence-based practice, promoting quality of life. Keswick, Australia: The Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability.

National People with Disabilities and Carer Council. (2009). Shut out: The experience of people with disabilities and their families in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/05_2012/nds_report.pdf

Taleporos, G. (2019). The evolution of housing for people with disability. Retrieved from https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2017/04/evolution-housing-people-disabilities/  

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