As the public comment period draws to a close on a federal proposal detailing what qualifies as community-based housing for people with disabilities, the issue is sparking controversy.

The proposal from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was first announced in April and is open for comment through Tuesday.

Under the plan, residences that include “regimented meal and sleep times, limitations on visitors, lack of privacy and other attributes that limit individual’s ability to engage freely in the community” would be excluded from Medicaid home and community-based services waivers.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

What’s more, qualifying homes could not be designed exclusively for people with disabilities.

Federal officials say they recommended the rules update after hearing about situations where new housing dubbed “community-based” was being built on the site of existing institutions.

However, some parents and disability advocates are criticizing the changes saying that they would limit options for adults with disabilities who may desire to reside near those like themselves.

“As the parent of a mentally challenged son, I implore you let him have the choice to live in a community surrounded by his peers with social activities and the peace of mind that it is a ‘safe’ environment,” Suzan Knights, a Florida parent, wrote in comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Meanwhile, two guest blog posts appearing on the Autism Speaks website last week were also critical of the federal effort. In one, Desiree Kameka from the Maryland-based Madison House Foundation suggested that the criteria outlined for community-based housing is just as unreasonable as telling people that they must live in an urban versus a rural setting.

Despite the postings, Peter Bell, executive vice president at Autism Speaks, said the organization is not taking an official position on the issue, though he added that the rules under consideration “could be very restrictive.”

Other advocacy groups are coming out in favor of the proposal, however. In a joint comment submitted to federal officials, The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy largely endorsed the effort. And, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network both sent e-mails in recent days urging people to comment in support of the changes.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for the disability community to support a real minimum standard for community living,” read an e-mail from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to its members.