Guiding the UN Special Rapporteur on housing for women with disabilities

Housing is a basic human right, but the reality is that many women with disabilities are still in search of the elusive ‘appropriate, affordable, secure housing’, and their numbers are increasing.

McAuley Community Services for Women has prepared a submission for the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur, Leilani Farha, based on its own work assisting women with disabilities in McAuley House and McAuley Care.

The Special Rapporteur is reporting on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and on the right to non-discrimination. She intends to provide a clear and coherent framework to assist governments in the implementation of rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and other obligations under international human rights law.

Jocelyn Bignold, CEO of McAuley Community Services for Women, welcomed the focus on women with disabilities and housing.

“In general, there is no specific acknowledgement of women’s housing needs – let alone

the unique needs of women with disabilities - by Australia’s two major political parties. This is of deep concern to us. There are women with disabilities for whom appropriate housing is not a problem, but there are many more for whom it is a complex and anxiety-arousing issue,” she said.

Last year McAuley opened Victoria’s first purpose built accommodation and support hub for women who were homeless with funding from both the Sisters of Mercy and the Victorian Government.

The building was designed with women with disabilities in mind. There are two disability bedrooms, a lift for easy access to all floors; and there are no steps on any floor enabling a person in a wheelchair, on a frame or with a walking stick, to manoeuvre easily.

“The building is at the cutting edge of providing housing for the homeless. Many of the women coming into both McAuley Care and McAuley House have diagnosed mental illness, and most also experience multiple, chronic, physical illnesses,” Joce said.

The McAuley experience mirrors national statistics which show that nearly 20 per cent of Australian women have some form of disability. Around 1.6 million women experience the dual disadvantage of discrimination, firstly because of their gender and secondly as a direct result of their disability.

McAuley Community Services for Women believes the Special Rapporteur could play a role in:

  • Promoting the need for a national study investigating the accessibility of domestic and family violence services for women with disabilities; and the provision of more, well designed, accessible and low cost housing close to amenities.
  • Recommending housing assistance measures for women with disabilities affected by domestic and family violence.
  • Recommending that women with disabilities are offered a real choice of accommodation options.
  • Recommending that direct and indirect costs attributable to disability must be taken into account when determining the level of disposable income.
  • Recommending that cultural needs and wishes of women with disabilities are taken into consideration in providing housing options.

The submission can be found here.