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Housing rights for the disabled

About ‘The United Nations’ proposed housing rights for the disabled

World View: Provision of adequate housing for disabled

The lack of disabled access buildings is a common problem, which makes it difficult for disabled people to
obtain housing, and in some cases restricts them to living in specialised institutions while many will rather live on the streets.

Housing that is not initially designed for the needs of persons with disabilities can always be adapted later in a variety of ways. Access to wheelchair, adding a specialized toilet or bathroom that adapts to their disabilities are some of the ways to ease the difficulties that arise as a result of one disability or another.

However, these modifications can be too expensive for many disabled people to afford unless they receive financial assistance from the public authorities.

There are a number of international rules that aim to solve this issue and promote the adaptation of housing to the needs of persons with disabilities of which Nigeria falls short of by all standards.

The world view of the rights of disabled people is a far cry from what is obtainable in Nigeria.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which applies to housing, as it covers all fundamental human rights and freedom, sets out two essential rules in order to guarantee that disabled people have genuine access to housing – the requirement to promote accessibility, and the right to reasonable accommodation.

First, the Convention requires Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that disabled people have access to the physical environment, which means identifying and removing obstacles and barriers to accessibility particularly in buildings used as housing.

Second, the Convention states that denial of reasonable accommodation constitutes discrimination which must be prohibited by member states. It also requires member states to take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided.

The concept of a right to reasonable accommodation means that there is an obligation for providers of goods and services to make any necessary changes or adjustments so that any disabled person who requires it can access the goods and services in question, so long as the necessary changes do not represent disproportionate burden for the provider of goods or services. The fact that this right is recognized confers on all disabled people the power to have these modifications made.

One advantage that common standards have over the idea of reasonable accommodation is that they are clearly defined and must be taken into account by anyone constructing a building, meaning that individuals do not have to make special requests. However there is also a downside, as having uniform standards across the board means settling on the lowest common denominator with no regard for the specific requirements of certain disabilities.The two ideas should therefore be seen as complementing each other. Even where there are general accessibility standards, disabled people who have additional requirements because of their specific disability could request them as reasonable accommodation.

The UN proposed housing rights for the disabled sets out two specific measures that aim to ensure equal treatment for disabled people, particularly as regards access to goods and services:

a) The measures necessary to enable persons with disabilities to have access to and supply of goods
and services which are available to the public, including housing and transport, shall be provided by
anticipation, including through appropriate modifications or adjustments. Such measures should not
impose a disproportionate burden, nor require fundamental alteration of the goods and services in
question or require the provision of alternatives there-to.

b) Notwithstanding the obligation to ensure effective non-discriminatory access and where needed in a
particular case, reasonable accommodation shall be provided unless this would impose a disproportionate
The proposal maintains that denial of reasonable accommodation is defined as discrimination.

The majority of member states have taken measures to encourage adaptation in housing, both public and
private, to meet the requirements of disabled people, whether owners or tenants. There are three main
types of measure: recognising the right to reasonable accommodation in housing, providing financial
assistance to carry out the modifications and setting accessibility standards applicable to all new
buildings or even to existing ones.

Needless to say, these measures are not mutually exclusive, but rather they are complementary. While the accessibility standards aim to ensure that buildings are designed to be accessible to as many people as possible before they are built, the right to reasonable accommodation means that there is a second window for making them accessible to people whose particular requirements were not taken into account during building. And by providing subsidies for this, the member states make it easier to make the modifications, which can be prohibitively expensive.

Is it really possible for such standards as prescribed by the UN to be imbibed in Nigeria?

Can we cope with having separate buildings for the disabled considering the fact that the country still grapples with adequate and affordable housing for the masses at large?

Next on issues we would trash will be the situation in Nigeria.

Is the Nigerian housing sector doing enough for the disabled?

How can we make the disabled feel abled in terms of provision of reasonable housing?

READ ALSO: IDP’S: Another case of homelessness

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