On June 2, 2021

Accessibility should be accessible

Dear Editor,

I recently learned that the Bennington Housing Authority no longer provides housing for people with a disability if they are under the age of 62 in their existing subsidized apartments. While “seniors” who no longer can age in place because of the architecture of our current homes will face slightly less competition for a scarce resource, the decision takes six subsidized, accessible apartments off the market for younger disabled Vermonters.

That might not sound like much, but there was already a severe shortage of affordable accessible housing in Vermont. This includes apartments with accessible bathrooms and wheel-in showers that people who use wheelchairs need to live independently and with dignity. 

This just makes the situation even worse.

Worse still, accessible and subsidized apartments simply do not become available very often. Once a person is lucky enough to acquire one they tend to stay there. There is a very long waiting list.

While the housing authority still offers Section 8 vouchers to younger applicants to allow them to live in the community, when younger disabled Vermonters do an apartment search, they will find a very limited number of units that are accessible.

Gus Seelig, director at the Vermont Housing Conservation Board, reportedly said that he expects hundreds of new housing units to be built with federal dollars. 

If so, how many will be accessible? 

I truly hope that the fiscal year 2022 budget appropriates funds to provide more much-needed affordable accessible housing that includes accessible bathrooms with wheel-in showers.

Everyone is entitled to a safe, accessible, and comfortable home. If you live with a disability, acquiring that housing should not be this steep an uphill battle. 

Charlie Murphy, Bennington

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