Co-Designing Housing for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability states that persons with disabilities should have “the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement” (Article 19). However, “despite the overwhelming interest in housing design and quality practice within the housing and health sectors, there remains a general lack of robust research around housing design in disability and a lack of evidence relating to the design process or minimum criteria for practice” (Zeeman et al, 2016).

Adults with intellectual disabilities have historically lived in large institutions and more commonly now in group homes with other people with intellectual disabilities or with parents. Few are homeowners or involved in the private rental market although larger numbers are users of public housing. They have typically had little involvement, if any, in decision-making regarding their living situation, including the design of their home.

While co-design is increasingly common in the development of services and technologies to assist people with disabilities, there remains relatively limited information or examples of co-design of homes for people with an intellectual disability (ID). This is likely due to a variety of factors including previous lack of funding and support (Tually, 2011), perceptions of capacity to be involved in the design process (Perinen and Verna (2016), and a lack of models or guidelines for co-design with this population.

There are multiple factors contributing to the challenges of co-designing with people with an ID. Firstly, there are communication challenges inherent in undertaking co-design with people with an ID (Francis, 2009; Lowe et al, 2014; Gaudion et al, 2015; Herriott, 2015; Brereton, 2015). Dawe (2007) highlights three other challenges in designing with this population: (1) they have widely varying abilities and needs; (2) they are represented by themselves as well as a network of caregivers; and (3) the environment is less predictable and stable when this group go in to the community.  As well as varying abilities and needs, Fudge Schormans et al (2018) have shown that those with intellectual disabilities bring diverse and intersecting histories of disability, race, gender, ethnicity, and class.

This work, funded by the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC), is intended as a resource to advance the objectives of co-designed housing for people with intellectual disability.  

The work is an academic literature review providing a general overview of the state of relevant literature relating to: (1) co-designed housing for people with intellectual disabilities and (2) housing affordability, funding and ownerships options, and legal considerations for people with intellectual disabilities.

The questions addressed in this study are:

  1. What methods have been reported in the co-design of housing with people with an ID?
  2. What outcomes are reported from including people with an ID in the co-design of their own home?


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