Helping our clients find suitable homes so that they can continue their path to independent living is one of our biggest challenges.
Over the past 20 years we have quietly campaigned with our housing partners for an increase in the number of accessible homes.
Now the Government is asking for views on the potential to amend building regulations to raise accessible housing standards for all new build houses.
The existing minimum standard for new housing in England features four main criteria that make new homes accessible to most people, including wheelchair users.
These are: level access to the main entrance, a flush threshold, sufficiently wide doorways and circulation space, and a toilet at entrance level.
But our view is that wheelchair users might be able to gain access to these new homes, but often they would not be able to live in them.
One of the options in the Government consultation paper is raising the minimum standard for all new homes to including having a living area at entrance level and step-free access to all entrance level rooms and facilities, wider doorways and corridors as well as clear access routes to reach windows.
It would also include further features to make homes more easily adaptable over time to a wide range of occupants, including older people, those with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users, for example bathrooms and toilets that can be adapted easily for installation of grab rails, and stairs designed to allow a stair lift to be easily fitted.
We are busy preparing our response to the consultation paper and we hope the Government will see the sense of future-proofing new homes for an ageing population and growing numbers of disabled people by raising the minimum standard of accessibility for all new-build houses.
Our chief executive Fae Dromgool said: “It’s one of the huge issues facing our clients. We help them through what has been a major catastrophe and show them how they can live independent lives, only to find that there is a very limited amount of housing that enables them to do that.
“If homes were built to a standard that would allow someone in a wheelchair to live in them – not just access them - then they would be suitable for everyone. It means that as people get older and have reduced mobility they are much more likely to be able to stay living in their homes. In the long term that has got to be a benefit both financially and socially.
“Our properties were built in the 1990s to that higher standard and they work well for all our clients. It’s about time we all started to think about fitting the building around the person rather than the person around the building,” she said.
If you would like to join us and add your voice to the debate, you can read the Government consultation here:
The closing date for comments is December 1st.
Help us spread the word about the work we do to support our clients to live independently again after suffering an injury or illness which has resulted in them needing a wheelchair. Like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn at ethosgrouposwestry