As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, February 2012.
The number of Americans with special needs — ranging from physical disabilities to mental impairments — is growing. As this special-needs market segment continues to expand, more and more individuals and families need help to find accessible housing and the financing to secure it. These families need assistance in a number of areas, and mortgage brokers and originators who help them may find a fulfilling market niche, as well as an increasing client base.
A growing market
The special-needs market already is much larger than many people suspect. The most recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that more than 18 percent of Americans have a disability, and 12 percent have a severe disability. A disability can be defined as any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities for the individual.
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Many who are unfamiliar with this market sector may be unaware of how broad its scope is. To get a better understanding of the potential clients in this niche, consider a family with a member who has one of the following special needs:
A developmental disability, like autism, Down syndrome or Angelman syndrome
A mental illness, like post-traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia
A cognitive or neurological disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkin-son’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), or multiple sclerosis
A physical disability, such as cerebral palsy, an amputation or a traumatic injury causing paralysis
These conditions cover a wide spectrum of individuals, which is why so many families are affected.
Disabilities transcend generations and income groups. Families of all ages and classes can find themselves caring for young children with disabilities or for aging parents — and sometimes both. An estimated 54 million Americans have a disability, whether it’s developmental, cognitive, physical or mental. According to the National Disability Institute, one in every five individuals reports a disability; 20 million families have at least one member who has a disability; and more than one-third of American households either report a member with a disability or are impacted by disability.
And the number of people with disabilities is growing. Because of medical advances, children have been able to survive illnesses and live with conditions that previously were fatal. As more premature babies have been saved, the risk of those children having disabilities has increased; and as more women give birth later in life, the risk of genetic disorders also increases. Conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and autism are being more readily diagnosed. In fact, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children with a disability increased from 8.2 million to about 10 million between 1997 and 2008, driven largely by increases in the diagnoses of autism and ADHD.
The aging population is another growing factor in this market segment. More than 50 percent of those aged 65 or older have some form of disability, according to the Census Bureau. A recent study published in the Archives of Neurology predicted that the number of people treated with Alzheimer’s disease will reach 13.2 million by 2050. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 69 seconds an American develops the disease.
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