As the only comprehensive, online platform for sharing residential opportunities and resources for autistic adults and others with intellectual/developmental disabilities (A/I/DD), the Autism Housing Network (AHN) has been growing rapidly since its launch in 2013. As a project of the Madison House Autism Foundation (MHAF), the AHN was a test to see if a central housing hub would be beneficial for the autism community. Its success revealed the importance of becoming more inclusive of the broader community of persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities. A decade later, the AHN’s popularity has skyrocketed with over 100,000 page views each month (and growing), a Housing Directory of over 125 residential opportunities across the nation, and over 300 resources in multiple categories.
Given the growing popularity of the AHN, MHAF has decided to upgrade the accessibility and sustainability of the website. As technology and accessibility information updates over time, MHAF wants to stay on top of these changes. Another reason for the changes is due to the influential A Place in the World report and subsequent initiatives. Using the initial language system of the AHN, and in collaboration with First Place Global Leadership Institute, Arizona State University, and other leaders across the country, the research team established a list of terms and definitions related to residential options. The new AHN Housing Directory reflects this recommended universal language, making the offerings clearer. This also offers researchers a database to connect and target future research to specific groups of people, service delivery options, housing types, etc. With the report’s clarifying terms on housing and support options, the autism and I/DD (A/I/DD) community and other stakeholders can work together more effectively.
On the AHN Housing Directory page, you can see the updated language reflected in the new filter system. Each listing will also show all of the filters it falls under. You can click on a filter term to see the definition as well as other properties that share that same filter selection. There is also a plain-language definition list on the AHN Housing Directory homepage to add support in getting started.
The new and improved website also features more support for housing developers. Whether you’re experienced in the housing industry or have no prior knowledge in housing, the AHN has tools for getting started. Check out the Neuro-Inclusive Framework to learn more about how partnership can help save time and money. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The carefully curated Create FAQ page can help answer some of the most frequently asked questions we have received through the years.
The new AHN site also features multiple video series, including an AHN Housing and Support Learning Series which outlines the basics of housing and support services as well as what you may consider when exploring options. These videos increase accessibility for those that find reading difficult or that find visual and auditory information helpful. Keeping sensory sensitivity in mind, these videos do not start automatically, sudden pop-ups are not included anywhere on the website, boxes have rounded edges, and colors are mostly soft except for the buttons to help with wayfinding. You’ll also find a cleaner AHN Resource Directory with functional categories and an overall more sensory-friendly design throughout the site.
The website will also offer digital resource downloads at an affordable price, our new MHAF store with designs by autistic artists, and opportunities for financially supporting our work. For example, relevant businesses and organizations can utilize our growing audience and support our work by purchasing ad space. Those with events or research recruitment can also partner with us to extend their reach using a win-win cost-per-click model. The resources we provide are only made possible through the generous support of our community. These areas of support keep the majority of the AHN content free and up-to-date for users nationwide.
Our values, which are listed on our About AHN/MHAF page, include empowerment and respect. It is important to MHAF to include autistic professionals and those with autistic family members in paid consulting, contracting, and staff positions, as well as leadership positions. In addition to the AHN website designer, our professional work with the autism community currently includes consulting, video editing, communications, community outreach, artist contracting, and board membership. MHAF also actively includes self-advocate and family member voices in research and shares their voices and concerns directly in publications and media outlets. We also encourage feedback, and invite anyone to reach out with any questions and concerns on our contact page.
Thank you to all of our partners and supporters. We are truly excited about the new Autism Housing Network!