Lyon County Accessible Housing Study

Statistical information related to individuals with disabilities on a local level was generally non-existent or unreliable. In order to better understand the need for accessible housing in Lyon County at present and in the future, steps were taken to diminish obstacles related to insufficient information. A comprehensive effort was required to design and implement research methodology that would effectively measure the needs of individuals with disabilities. To develop a meaningful information that was accurate and concise, a census of the entire population in Lyon County was required to establish the number of individuals who needed accessible housing.

Executive Summary

Background
The great majority of Americans spend their entire lives without having to deal with a disability requiring housing modifications to accommodate the impairment. As the population ages, the odds of having to address this issue continue to increase. If such a disability should occur, the capacity to find assistance in the form of construction skills and advice is extremely valuable. To gain a greater understanding of the future of accessible housing in this country, it is first necessary to study the changes made to homes in the past to accommodate special needs as well as those homes presently requiring modifications to facilitate ease of access by disabled members of the household.

Those members of society with physical disabilities may have great difficulty finding adequate housing that will permit them the freedom of movement they require for a normal existence. Locating either rental property or housing for sale with existing modifications adequate to accommodate a disability may be very difficult at times. Both of these issues need to be addressed in the future to assure equal and accessible housing for all within a given geographical area.

Information about adequate housing for the physically disabled, although very significant, is virtually nonexistent within the current framework of information on a city, county, state, or national level. Since multiple definitions exist for “disability,“ it becomes nearly impossible to establish a common set of parameters for describing the level or extent of disabilities present in various areas.

Scope of Disability
This study initially launched with a fairly vague term, "disability," but was changed to "physical disability" after evaluation of the project questionnaire by several individuals with physical disabilities and after having more test questionnaires completed by both disabled and non-disabled respondents raised concerns. This wording was used to allow terminology that could be more clearly understood by respondents and encompass the major portion of housing modifications required for individuals to function with minimum difficulty.

As a result, the final questionnaire was implemented to enable information being gathered and organized in a framework that would permit analysis of required structural modifications of residential dwellings to accommodate those with physical disabilities. Although determining the percentage of individuals with disabilities was obtained through the survey effort, the goal was not to verify the number of individuals with disabilities, but rather to understand how present disabilities were addressed through residential modifications. By better understanding how current disabilities are dealt with, more precise projection of the future may be achieved allowing for better planning efforts. While only undertaken on a county level, the results gathered are vital in developing an overall understanding of housing modifications and the projection of future needs on a larger scale. When fully developed, this completed research will allow other areas within the United States to determine a workable model to assist in planning and studying their specific potential needs.

The Research Team
To create a realistic survey instrument and to ensure accurate delivery and interpretation of the information gathered, individuals with permanent physical disabilities and the skill set necessary for marketing research were involved from the study's inception. The managing director of the research project was a graduate student in marketing and had specialized information regarding disabilities from living with Cerebral Palsy since birth. She has served on many local and state boards and been an advocate for the disabled. Additionally, one Vietnam veteran, relegated to a wheelchair after suffering a spinal cord injury also assisted in the survey process.

KEY FINDINGS

The results of this study show that although just over eight percent of the residences surveyed voluntarily indicated having someone residing there with a disability, more than 12 percent of the residences have made modifications. The types of modifications that are being made in Lyon County do not apply to a specific disability, although railings/bars, wider doors and modified bathrooms are typical modifications made by all segments of the population. A significant percentage of those with physical disabilities live in homes without modifications.

To accommodate the higher need for modifications, greater focus on educating the public about who can be contacted if modifications are needed and an increase, in housing built with structural modifications is crucial to support an ever-expanding demand for modified housing by the disabled. In addition to better understanding the current profile of modified housing for the disabled in Lyon County, the results of this study can be used to project the current and future needs for housing modifications in other areas. These can be segmented into both rural and urban segments. The results of this study indicate that in urban areas there is a higher percentage of rental property and as a result, a higher need for modified rental property. There also seems to be a higher percentage of the disabled population seeking rental property living in urban areas

Conclusions

  • Understanding physical disabilities and the housing modifications required for each type of disability were the basis of this survey effort.
  • Almost 4,300 residences were contacted in Lyon County that resulted in a stratified survey that highly correlates with Census 2000 data.
  • Over eight percent of the population surveyed considered themselves to have a physical disability, yet more than 12 percent of those surveyed have made modifications to their homes.
  • Although over 65 percent of those surveyed with disabilities own the home in which they reside, only 54 percent of them have made modifications to that home to accommodate that disability.
  • Modifications are being made to dwellings of all types (homes, apartments, townhouses, condominiums), regardless of a disability being present among current occupants. Many of these modifications represent construction changes that are simply improved design and are not necessarily a result of addressing changes demanded by disabilities. Modifications of this type include wider bathroom doorways, larger bathrooms and wider hallways.
  • Modifications are being made for all types of physical disabilities, not just to accommodate a few particular disabilities.
  • Railings/Bars, modified bathrooms, wider doors are common changes among both renters and owners.
  • Financial cost is the number one reason for not making the needed modifications to residences.
  • A majority of respondents feel they understand who they would contact if modifications were needed due to a future disability.
  • Over 77 percent of those who are unsure about who to contact for assistance with required modifications feel that public information concerning available qualified contractors, organizations and individuals would be valuable.

Recommendations

  • Generalizations about housing modifications cannot be made since specific disabilities require specific modifications, thus all specific modifications need to be reviewed and stated for accuracy when analyzing any geographic area's requirements for housing modifications to accommodate disabilities.
  • More housing modifications will be required in the future as more is learned concerning needed structural modifications for specific disabilities.
  • Modifications are presently being made to all types of residences and must continue in order to meet expected future demand.
  • Greater focus on educating the population about specific modifications for various disabilities and what organizations are available to assist with the modification process to housing is needed.
  • Data collected from this Lyon County survey needs to be adapted to a model that can be applied to other counties seeking a better understanding of their demands for modified housing for their disabled population.

This information along with a detail of findings section was all given to the client in the form of a written report. A PowerPoint report was also presented.

Last Modified: 4/12/17 3:48 PM