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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Policy on Housing & Transportation: Overview


NCIL supports initiatives to increase accessible, affordable, healthy / nontoxic, decent, safe, and integrated housing. NCIL is an inclusive cross-disability organization and applies the term ‘accessible’ broadly, emphasizing physical accessibility, accommodations for persons with sensory disabilities (visual or hearing), mental health disabilities, developmental and intellectual disabilities as well as persons with chemical and electrical sensitivities.

A NCIL Member carries a sign that reads "Justice Not Just Us"The need for housing that accommodates a wide range of disabilities is increasing due to community living options replacing costly and unjust institutionalization. Housing is a key component in rebalancing our long term care system.  Diverting individuals with disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions and transitioning them to the community saves money.

Housing challenges also are seen with many veterans returning with disabilities, with the high rate of homelessness among people with disabilities, and with the aging of the population. NCIL believes that all temporary and permanent housing should be designed and constructed accessible to and usable by all.

The demand for housing that people with disabilities can actually use has far outgrown the available supply, and the shortage will only get worse with our nation’s aging population and the corresponding increase in the number of people with disabilities. Congress has to act to ensure that there will be an adequate supply of housing, both private and public.

NCIL opposes cuts to housing and other domestic programs designed to assist low to moderate-income households, including those with disabilities.

Nationally, housing affordability continues to be a serious challenge for households that include a person with a disability. Despite years of near-stagnant funding in the face of increasing costs of providing housing assistance and the higher need for housing assistance, the Trump Administration and Congress have not taken positive steps to resolve the need for more housing for low-income households.

Although Congress’ FY17 budget numbers for HUD and USDA programs did not have any significant changes from previous years, proposed numbers for the 2018 budget plans range from a loss of 30,000 housing choice vouchers in the Senate plan to 110,000 with the House budget to 235,000 under the Trump budget request. HUD provided a preliminary estimate in January that they would need $19.6 billion to renew all of the vouchers, which is $900 million more than the House provides, and $230 million more than the Senate provides. That would mean thousands of vouchers left unfunded.

An added complication is the massive tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals passed in December’s tax bill that will affect future budgetary discussions. The President and the Republicans have proposed $200 billion in federal spending over a decade for an infrastructure program. Despite Congress raising the budget cap, advocates need to fight for every penny the housing programs need to maintain funding of commitments. Strong advocacy is needed to demonstrate the importance of housing programs for people with disabilities.

NCIL supports the Housing Fairness Act of 2017: H.R. 149

Systemic discrimination is not the only housing issue that people with disabilities encounter in communities. The National Fair Housing Alliance has reported that in 2016, 55 percent of all complaints were on basis of disability. This is unacceptable for a group that already faces formidable barriers to finding housing. Increased funding is needed for HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program to improve the effectiveness of fair housing enforcement, education, and outreach.

NCIL supports the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act (formerly H.R. 3260)

Housing affordability is only part of the solution. There has to be greater physical accessibility in the nation’s housing stock, both for private and Federally-subsidized housing. Currently, there are no national accessibility standards for privately owned single-family (1 to 3 units) housing. Some communities and states have taken the lead in promoting single-family home accessibility standards, commonly known as Visitability.

Visitability is the idea that new single-family homes should be constructed with basic accessibility features to allow a guest with a mobility disability to visit.

Equally important, these same features, if required in new construction, would provide accessibility for potential homeowners or renters with disabilities and enhance the likelihood of seniors being able to age in place, and would reduce the need for costly home modifications or significant renovation. The previous Congressional sessions have seen a proposal that would require that newly constructed, Federally-assisted single family houses and town houses conform to Visitability standards. The basic design features referenced by the bill refers to the International Codes Commission’s accessibility standards for a voluntary Type C unit.

NCIL supports the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 548 and H.R. 1661) and proposes it be amended for increased accessibility.

Many cities and regions suffer from a shortage of affordable and accessible housing. This is one of the few sources, and the primary source, of “new money” for housing that can be affordable with other subsidies. Many Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties are multi-family housing, which fall under the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. Even though there are no Section 504 obligations for greater accessibility, it has been beneficial for many people with disabilities. A bipartisan push to expand the LIHTC program has been underway, introduced as S. 548 and H.R. 1661, both named “Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017”.

NCIL supports the program and the additional tax credits proposed, but NCIL believes that given the desperate need for mobility accessible units, the LIHTC program has to do better on accessibility. A study in the Housing Policy Debate, “The Characteristics and Unmet Housing Program Needs of Disabled HUD-Assisted Households” by Casey Dawkins and Mark Miller, found that hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities were in housing that did not meet their accessibility needs. Startlingly, in public housing, seventy percent of residents did not receive a requested disability-related reasonable accommodation, and ninety percent of public housing residents with disabilities did not live in accessible units.

Since Congress has consistently chosen to not significantly increase funding for subsidized housing, one way to increase the number of accessible units (by Fair Housing standards) is by expanding the LIHTC program. The LIHTC program should adopt a minimum of 5% mobility accessibility and 2% sensory accessibility standard of Section 504 requirements.

NCIL supports the Rent Relief Act of 2017 (H.R. 3670)

This bill would provide a tax credit against the tax on the rent a household pays, capped at 150% of HUD’s Fair Market Rent. The tax credit percentage is pro-rated according to income, starting at 100% for those under $25,000, then 75% for those between $25,000 and $50,000, 50% for between $50,000 and $75,000, and so forth until no credit is given those with income over $125,000. People who live in subsidized housing can claim one month’s rent on their taxes. This would greatly assist low-income households with a larger tax refund (or a diminished tax liability).

NCIL supports the Ending Homelessness Act of 2017

This bill would provide for more funding between 2018 and 2022 for emergency relief for homelessness, rental assistance for those who are homeless, and homeless outreach and coordination services. The bill also provides additional funding through the Housing Trust Fund. It would also provide funding to HUD to expand the Healthcare and Housing (H2) Systems Integration Initiative by assisting states and localities in coordinating Medicaid programs, behavioral health providers, housing providers, and finance support services to ensure homeless individuals receive services.

Note: The Disability Integration Act (see Healthcare Section) includes language requiring each state to develop a statewide plan to increase the availability of affordable and accessible private and public housing stock for individuals with disabilities.


Economic competitiveness and success in the 21st century are dependent upon revolutionary ideas and solutions to provide everyone, including individuals with disabilities, with accessible transportation that connects our cities, suburbs, rural areas, regions, and states. NCIL strongly supports and advocates for the integration of individuals with disabilities into society through universal (accessible) design in in both public and private transportation. In doing so, America honors the equal access intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A NCIL Member chants loudly during the 2017 March to the CapitolLivable Communities: To have vibrant livable communities, all modes of transportation must be must be accessible. Biking and walking are important options for transportation that improve health and well-being and reduce congestion. Safe and accessible transportation is critical to improve employment opportunities and connect people with programs, services and recreational opportunities. Accessible bike programs are available only in a few areas and advocates should seek out local, county, state, and Federal guidance, especially from local and state Bicycle-Pedestrian groups to increase accessible bike programs across America. People, especially individuals with disabilities, are negatively affected on a daily basis by the lack of accessible and affordable transportation. We must embrace innovative ideas that serve to enhance and maximize community integration, connectivity, and independence.

Self-Driving / Autonomous Vehicles: Self-Driving cars (also called autonomous vehicles or AVs) are coming. In fact, some are already in use here and in other countries. The potential of AVs to increase transportation options for people with disabilities is one of the greatest benefits of this technology and possibly the most dramatic change in transportation in the century. However, right now market forces are driving (pun intended) the process which is likely to have a negative rather than positive impact for people with disabilities. Even though people in rural areas (where there is less public transit) could benefit more than people in metropolitan areas, market forces are moving to deploy these vehicles in urban areas.

Last year the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3388 (the SELF DRIVE Act) and the Senate introduced S. 1885 (the AV START Act). Neither bill requires universal design in AVs nor do they mandate that people with disabilities will be able to access this technology. Advocates testified at hearings requesting that universal design language be included and it was not. Congress needs to fix this. Profitability for manufacturers will continue to drive this process unless Congress steps in and balances the need for innovation with the greater public good of access for all.

Amtrak / High Speed Rail Systems: NCIL strongly supports high speed rail, including Amtrak and other regional high speed rail systems. However, they often continue to be out of compliance with ADA standards. These companies are not government entities, but receive Federal and other governmental subsidies and as such must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as the ADA. In addition to subsidies, they have received technical assistance and directives in this area. In August 2017, Amtrak released the report “ADA Stations Program Five Year Strategic Plan”. Although long overdue, this plan is an important step to improving accessibility. Amtrak also created a position of Vice-President for Passenger Accessibility. However there is still a lot of work to do. On many trains, people with disabilities do not get the same level of service as others. For example, wheelchair users and others who cannot climb steps are limited to the lower level of the bi-level cars and cannot access the dining cars or the sightseer lounges. Advocates need to continue to push Amtrak for greater accessibility

Airlines and Air Travel Issues

The Trump Administration, through DOT, announced a one year delay on data collection that covered lost or damaged wheelchairs, scooters, and mishandled assistive technology on airlines. Leading disability organizations have opposed further delay of data collection. Advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit that is pending.

Air Carrier Access Amendments Act (S.1318): This legislation was introduced in 2017 by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and would strengthen Air Carrier Access Act enforcement, provide increased access to aircraft, improve training for air carrier personnel and their contractors, require the Secretary of Transportation to work with stakeholders to develop an Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, and create a U.S. Department of Transportation Advisory Committee on the Air Travel Needs of Passengers with Disabilities.

NCIL supports many of the DOT’s substantive accessibility proposals for both websites and kiosks. We agree that the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA, is the appropriate technical standard for websites. However, we strongly believe that it must be paired with a performance standard to maximize accessibility and usability. Technical standards alone will not ensure usability. NCIL recommends adding a performance standard that will guarantee that individuals with disabilities have the same access and website experience as users without disabilities and substantially similar ease of use. Mandates for accessibility of websites and kiosks are long overdue. Simultaneously, DOT must not make the same mistake by neglecting to include mobile devices and apps. It is imperative that we ensure access to the most advanced and accessible communication technologies.

NCIL supports an FAA Reauthorization (H.R. 2997 and S. 1405): Some of the provisions in S. 1318 are included in the House and Senate versions of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bills that addresses the concerns of the disability community, including policies and practices promoting cultural competency for airline personnel and private contractors.

Airlines would also be required to meet accessibility standards, including safe and effective boarding and deplaning equipment and procedures; visually accessible announcements; and better options for stowage of assistive devices.

Private transportation services: Legislation and regulations are needed to increase the number and availability of accessible vehicles within the private transportation industry, including taxis, limousines, shuttle services, car rentals, buses, trains, boats and more recently, Transportation Networking Companies (TNCs).

TNCs, also known as Ride Hailing, are both an interesting and challenging development that can increase transportation options, but also raise concerns. Because of the limits on transit and other  transportation options utilized by the disability community (i.e., crossing county lines, lack of accessible vehicles, limits on non-traditional hours of services such as evenings, weekends, and holidays), TNCs can be important. They provide options for many people with disabilities. Unfortunately, TNC drivers have often discriminated against people with disabilities, not provided appropriate treatment of service animals, and overcharged members of the disability community. Few TNCs offer accessible vehicles and continue to fight accessibility requirements in many regions. This continues to leave people with a wide variety of disabilities and older Americans who use wheelchairs, scooters, and service animals without options. Some states are looking to contract with TNCs to reduce costs and in some cases, seek to address other disability services gaps (first and last mile). NCIL believes that with the right policies and practices, TNCs can be part of solving some of our community’s transportation needs. Some efforts between TNCs and the disability community are proving helpful, but great challenges remain. NCIL encourages advocates to be at the table on all levels when public policies and practices on TNCs are being discussed.

Medicaid Transportation: Transportation is a covered benefit under state Medicaid plans that are approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. Medicaid or Medical Assistance Transportation Programs are grouped under paratransit, but have different funding streams. With the continuing increased push for Medicaid Managed Care for both behavioral health and long term care, transportation is an issue that advocates will want to watch on federal and state levels. There speculation  that the Federal government may permit states to make Medicaid transportation optional! This will create more barriers to health care services for many people, including people with disabilities. This could also negatively impact public transit because some basic infrastructure is supported by Medicaid dollars.

Transportation Funding: In December 2015, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act is a five year agreement that will have funding for all modes of transportation with three years of guaranteed funding. President Trump has indicated an interest in increasing investment in transportation, but it’s not clear how much, which sectors, (public and / or private), or which modes.

NCIL supports full appropriation of Congressional funding agreed to in prior authorizations. We oppose cuts that impact people with disabilities, including those that support them living in the community.

Transportation Policy Watch List

NCIL also supports the following legislation and policy:

  • Public Policy Change: Increase weight levels on transit lifts to 1000 pounds
  • Allowing Local Control of Federal Transit Funds Act
  • Public policy supporting ADA compliance with vehicles for water travel

NCIL also encourages its members to be active on all levels in addressing transportation concerns, particularly since most venues are utilizing some Federal dollars: Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Rural Transit Planning Organizations (RTPOs), county / local transit, airport, state Department of Transportation (DOT) boards and other boards where transportation issues often don’t include representatives from the disability community.

Updated: March 5, 2018.