Discrimination of tenants with a visual impairment on the housing market: Empirical evidence from correspondence tests

Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe, Ph.D., Koen Van der Bracht, Ph.D., Bart Van de Putte, Ph.D.
Disability and Health Journal  April 2016, Volume 9, Issue 2, Pages 226–233
Published online: October 24, 2015
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2015.10.002


According to the social model of disability, physical ‘impairments’ become disabilities through exclusion in social relations. An obvious form of social exclusion might be discrimination, for instance on the rental housing market. Although discrimination has detrimental health effects, very few studies have examined discrimination of people with a visual impairment.


We aim to study (1) the extent of discrimination of individuals with a visual impairment on the rental housing market and (2) differences in rates of discrimination between landowners and real estate agents.


We conducted correspondence tests among 268 properties on the Belgian rental housing market. Using matched tests, we compared reactions by realtors and landowners to tenants with and tenants without a visual impairment.


The results show that individuals with a visual impairment are substantially discriminated against in the rental housing market: at least one in three lessors discriminate against individuals with a visual impairment. We further discern differences in the propensity toward discrimination according to the type of lessor. Private landlords are at least twice as likely to discriminate against tenants with a visual impairment than real estate agents. At the same time, realtors still discriminate against one in five tenants with a visual impairment.


This study shows the substantial discrimination against visually people with an impairment. Given the important consequences discrimination might have for physical and mental health, further research into this topic is needed.