Medical Advancements, supportive therapies, and architectural trends have made it possible for adult children with special needs to not only live, but thrive among their peers.  Today, people with Down syndrome typically live well into their 60s, which is several decades longer than in past generations. 

Many people with Down syndrome live and work independently, and so do many other adult children with disabilities can form a shelter and a family all their own under the right circumstances.

What is diability under the law?

Before getting started, it's important to understand what qualifies as a protected disability under the law.  Adult children with special needs are one specific class outlined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) who have a "disabling impairment that must have started before age 22.  However, there are many qualifying disabilities that receive protection under many areas of the government, including employment, housing, and transportation.

While SSA determines one's eligibilty for disability benefits, the Americans WIth Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines protections for and definitions of people with disabilities. The ADA is featured in Chapter 126 Equal Opportunity For Individuals With Disabilities under Title 42 of the Public Health And Welfare. Other government agencies have a responsibility to enforce these ADA as well as laws pertaining to housing that are outlined in the next section.

Still, not all people with a mental illness will quality as disabled.  Specific circumstances can impact one's rights as well.  For example, someone with alcoholism may qualify for protections in cases where they obtain treatment as part of an "accomodation."  An eviction will likely be upheld under the court of law for an alcoholic who cannot pay rent because of their impaired ability to work but refuses to seek treatment:; however, a protected person with an alcoholic disability might be someone who cannot pay rent due to alcoholism but asks their landlord for an accomodation that holds off an eviction until he or she completes treatment.

An illness does not need to be visible to quality.  A full list of disabilities outlined by the SSA shows even impairments that are considered "mild" in some circles, such as the skin disorder dermatitis, would qualify if it met the ADA's definitions. 

What is Disability Discrimination in Housing?

The Fair Housing Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act forbid discrimiation against tenants or prospective tenants becauseof a disability.  It governs both renting and owning a home.

Fair housing isn't just a nicety-it's the law.  Know your rights.  There are specific and fine details related to disability compared with other points of discrimination, such as race or religion.  The law applies to not just a person's disability but living arrangements of people with disabilities and the accessibility of rental housing.

Generally speaking:  Persons with disabilities are entitled to privacy about their disability:  they should be treated equally to someone without a disability, and should not be excluded from an apartment due to a landlord's fears or misgivings related to the disability: the person with a disability has a right to "resonable accomodations" relatd to their speical needs, even if their needs are different from the policies or structures related to the apartment or building: persons with disabilities may also make reasonable modifications that support their special needs.

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