R-1: Home and Community Accessibility in the American Housing Survey (AHS)


Two of the largest factors influencing community living for people with disabilities are the availability of affordable and accessible housing and transportation. Both have been linked to a variety of important outcomes for people with disabilities, including health, quality of life, depression, anxiety, social isolation, and nursing home placement and emancipation. These factors in turn impact community participation.

Despite legislation such as the ADA and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, the majority of homes in the United States are inaccessible to wheelchair users and may provide limited access to those who use other types of adaptive equipment. Similarly, there is a significant lack of accessible transportation.

However, population-based estimates of the number of people with disabilities living in inaccessible housing are scant.  This is largely due to the fact that, until recently, the only way to measure housing outcomes for people with disability was by using income as a proxy. 

But in 2009, the American Housing Survey (AHS) added items to identify respondents with disabilities. The AHS is a nationally representative sub-sample of the U.S. Census.

Purpose of the Study

In this study, we will use American Housing Survey data to analyze measures of accessibility of a house, age of house, or availability of transportation. This will provide foundational measures in the areas of housing characteristics and access to public transportation for people with disabilities nationally.  

Anticipated Benefits 

We anticipate results from this study will indicate how many people lack basic, safe access to and from their home, which may be used by advocates and policymakers to improve compliance with existing housing and transportation laws. 

The study will also provide an evidence base to support arguments that target changes in policies and practices specific to those who have the greatest need for accessible housing and transportation. 

Additionally, the results of this study will guide our R-9 housing and advocacy intervention project by clearly describing demographics of the target population for tailoring our measurement and intervention procedures.

Methods and Hypotheses

This project will add to the existing literature on the subject by clearly identifying the estimates of people with disabilities nationwide who lack accessible housing and/or transportation. In addition, the project will clarify if there are specific subsets of people with disabilities who are more likely than other subsets to encounter barriers in housing and transportation. 

While the effects of these problems are profound and well-documented, less is known about the extent of the problems and how they vary according to socio-demographic and geographic factors. This project will fill such gaps in the existing literature by answering these specific primary hypotheses: 

  1. Substantial segments of the disability population who report a mobility limitation live in homes or apartments that have steps at the entry.
  2. Substantial segments of the disability population do not have access to any transportation, including public transportation.
  3. Housing and transportation access is inversely related to income, age and employment status.
  4. People with disabilities are disproportionately represented in rented housing built before 1990 (i.e., housing not covered by the Fair Housing Amendment Act that mandates minimal accessibility standards).
  5. More people with mobility impairments living in non-metropolitan areas will have stairs to their housing entrance than those living in metropolitan areas because the housing stock is older and proportionately fewer housing units are covered by the Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA).

More Information about the Design of the Research

Sample, Data Collection and Measurement, Data Analysis

Project Investigators: Craig Ravesloot, PhD and Tom Seekins, PhD