Americans with Disabilities Need More Housing Modifications

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies studied the housing arrangements nationally of disabled people living in the community.

They also examined outcomes associated with different types of dwellings, and impediments to making needed housing adjustments as well as the impact of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and enforcement laws on increasing housing modifications.

Data for the study came from the Census Bureau's 1995 American Housing Survey (AHS) Housing Modification Supplement sponsored by HUD.

Key Findings

The study used three sets of indicators for children, working-age adults and the elderly:

  1. housing characteristics
  2. neighborhood characteristics
  3. mediating characteristics, i.e., income, age, etc.
  • Roughly 3 percent of those surveyed (the general population) had a housing-related disability (a disability that affects the individual's ability to use, or function in, their housing unit).
  • Relative to the nondisabled, those with a housing-related disability are more likely to be poor and live in a neighborhood characterized by crime and low maintenance of housing stock.


The study produced four key findings about working-age adults:

  • While the probability of an unmet need and the number of unmet needs decreases as income increases, the impact of every additional $1,000 of income is trivial.
  • There is a strong relationship between physical housing deficiencies and unmet need for housing modifications.
  • The strongest predictor of both unmet need and the presence of dwelling modifications is the number of housing-related disabilities.
  • It is the match between disabling condition and modification, not simply the number of modifications, that is essential for healthful residence in the community. Between 1978 and 1995, there was a significant increase in housing modifications and a decrease in unmet need for modifications, possibly a result of the ADA and enforcement laws.

Key Results

  • The study resulted in a 68-page report entitled The Living Conditions of America's Disabled.