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Beyond 50.03: A Report to the Nation on Independent Living and Disability: Executive Summary

(4) On average, people with disabilities 50 and older give their community a grade of B-/C+ as a place to live for people with disabilities. While some community features receive good marks, others are rated poorly by persons with disabilities, particularly public transportation. In addition, many older residents of federally subsidized housing are at risk of needing more supportive housing environments with services.

Barely one-third of respondents currently give their communities a "B" or higher rating for having dependable and accessible public transportation. Getting safely to places they want to go is the second most important concern persons with disabilities have about their communities. Among persons 65 and older with disabilities, the perception that crime is a serious problem in their neighborhoods nearly doubled, from 4.5 percent to 8.2 percent between 1984 and 1999.

Residents in federally subsidized housing for older persons share many of the characteristics of those at high risk of needing long-term supportive services. Subsidized housing residents are overwhelmingly female, report more disabilities than older persons who do not live in subsidized housing, and are less likely to have someone to whom they can turn if they become sick or disabled.

Policy Implication: Provide more supportive physical environments and livable communities. To be more "livable," communities must include the physical features and readily accessible services that enable older residents to remain independent. Better transportation is the top priority; making communities safe from crime is also important. While much of the funding is federal and state, housing and transportation programs are often administered locally. Local housing and transportation authorities should take the initiative to find ways to serve older persons with disabilities. Local planning boards should be aware of the needs of persons with disabilities when making decisions regarding the location of services and commercial establishments.

Policy Implication: Reduce barriers to "aging in place" for persons with disabilities. Funding for home modification programs could have an immediate impact on the ability of persons with disabilities to remain independent. Incentives to builders to incorporate universal design into homes would improve access for persons with disabilities as well as for families with young children.

In addition, target more funding for services to residents in federally subsidized housing. The high concentration of residents needing supportive services calls for a special focus on these settings, e.g., by including service coordinators on the staff of subsidized housing properties to help bring services to people so they do not have to move to obtain them.


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