Discrimination doesn’t have to look like someone saying “I did this because you are x”. Someone coming right out and saying that their actions are motivated by bigotry is rare. In many cases, people can be influenced by biases and false assumptions without realizing it. Society implants us with different ideas without us even knowing it. Atheists know this when they talk about the way Christianity in ingrained in much of North American culture: the way we say “bless you” when people sneeze, the presumption that religion equates morality: without it having to be expressly stated there is a social bias that having religion is better than not.
Similarly, and in many ways on a much deeper level, our society is inundated with biases about race, gender, and ability. This comes out in a myriad of ways including in discriminatory hiring practices, less opportunities on offer, and so forth.
Some ways in which discrimination occurs however, is nearly invisible. One example of this is the way in which there is discrimination in housing that is available to people who are on disability.
Many apartment complexes and landlords demand that new tenants make between 2 and 3 times the rent in order to be able to qualify. Anyone who doesn’t is expected to find either a co-signer, or a roommate. This may seem like a relatively reasonable precaution, until you consider that by current statistics, most people use up 75% of their earnings to pay for housing. This compared to our parents’ generation who used around 50%, and the one before that who used only 20% of their income to cover housing expenses.
When it comes to disability payments in Ontario, the allotted amount for housing is about $600. Not only is it not enough to cover the rent on even a bachelor apartment, even the total support payment is not sufficient to meet the salary expectations of new landlords.
This means that disabled people are being actively prevented from self-sufficiency. Even if you can find an apartment that you can afford once you factor in the whole support payment, getting approved to live there is another story. If you don’t know anyone with sufficient credit to act as a co-signer, then you have no chance of finding an apartment on your own.
In some cases ODSP is not accepted as a valid example of income, and so people are denied along those lines.
Why does this matter?
Ignoring for a moment that disabled people need places to live, same as everyone else, it creates a dangerous situation. Disabled people have among the highest risk for being victims of abuse. Financial domination is one of the ways that abusers keep their victims unable to leave, but in the case of disabled individuals, the abuser doesn’t have to try very hard. The support system and unrealistic rules are already doing it for them.
Being unable to find a place to live is a major barrier to being able to escape abusive environments, especially if you don’t know anyone willing to co-sign. Since abusers often use isolation as a tactic as well, this is particularly likely.
It means that disabled people are prevented from being able to thrive on their own, a fact often used to show that they are incapable of caring for themselves. This reinforces a lot of the existing biases surrounding ability.
Both the rules surrounding housing and the amounts provided for people on disability support are based on old information. Rents have risen faster than inflation, while pay has not kept up with the growth. The buying power of minimum wage has shrunk significantly. It is time for landlords and for the governing bodies that oversee allotted amounts to catch up with the times. For the good of everyone.