No Place like an Accessible Home!
Many of us fondly remember the image of a young farm girl, clicking the heels of her sparkling, ruby red slippers and longingly chanting the words, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…” Her tale isn’t a far cry away from most disabled people’s dream of wanting their own forever home.
I believe, living independently is a huge factor to leading a happy life. I have a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy (a progressive muscle wasting disease) meaning I need my powered wheelchair to be able to move around, so having a home that has enough space is extremely important. I’m lucky enough to have my own accessible home however there are many disabled people that are still living in unsuitable conditions.
According to the English Housing Survey, only 7% of homes in England have even the most basic access features. Furthermore, new figures published in June by Housing Association, Habinteg, reveal that outside of London, under a quarter of new homes due to be built by 2030 are planned to be accessible to a category 2 standard and only 1% are set to be suitable for wheelchair users. With there being 1.8 million people in the UK with an accessible housing requirement and 300,000 with an unmet need, this highlighted the crisis we’re in. The housing crisis has been described as ‘hidden’. Why? Is it really hidden? Shows like DIY SOS have been clearly illustrating how inaccessible people’s properties are for years. It’s clear today more than ever, that there is an accessible homes crisis.
Having the appropriate housing can dramatically improve disabled people’s ability to live independently.
Those whose homes do meet their accessibility needs have reported improved health and wellbeing. However, an accessible home is not only beneficial to the people living in it. Just having the right adaptations to the home can create significant savings to the public purse, reducing social care costs for local authorities and health costs for the NHS as the number of accidents at home will significantly reduce.
So, why is my accessible home convenient for me?
Firstly, all the doors are wide enough to ride my wheelchair through with ample space. I don’t have to worry about not being able to go into certain rooms or possibly damaging the door frame with my wheelchair. Secondly, the kitchen counters can be adjusted to the appropriate height for me to reach. In my previous property, the counters were too high so it was impossible for me to cook meals or even make a cup of tea. I also have a wet room which allows me to move around freely and not worry about how much water I spill. Some of these features may not sound like a big deal, but for a wheelchair user, these features are the difference between an independent and restricted life.
Depressingly, it did take over 3 years for me to be in this position. I was on the social housing waiting list for years before I received the keys to my home. I didn’t meet the criteria for some accessible bungalows (I had to be 65 or over) but thankfully I was accepted by Habinteg and left my previous cramped flat. Living in my accessible bungalow for the last 7 years has drastically improved my wellbeing and mental health. It’s provided me with a new lease on life and I can do tasks I would’ve only dreamed of at my old home.
Being a disabled person means you’ll constantly face mental and physical challenges. The housing crisis is one that should be taken off the table as soon as possible. It’s not a luxury to live in a suitable home and I believe everyone, old and young, disabled and non-disabled, deserves to have somewhere to live where they can feel at home.
This post has been written by Kerry Thompson, tenant of Habinteg Housing Association. If you would like to feature on Disabled Living’s blog to write about topics such as accessible housing, please get in touch with us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.