A fresh opportunity for disabled-friendly living

7 October 2014

Jane Harrisby Jane Harris

You may have heard the exciting news that there will be a new garden city in Kent, Ebbsfleet Garden City. This is first of its kind in almost 100 years and a step in the right direction for solving Britain’s housing crisis. It's also an opportunity to create a city which can meet the needs of the whole community.

But the people behind could miss a great opportunity to create a city that is truly disabled-friendly and fit for the 21st century.

Disabled people are facing a hidden housing crisis caused by a severe shortage of disabled-friendly homes. Ebbsfleet could deliver some of the disabled-friendly homes that are so desperately needed.

Around 15,000 new homes will be built in Ebbsfleet. But we have no idea how many of them will be disabled-friendly.

Hundreds of thousands of British adults reporting mobility problems live in homes which leave them unable to do the basics. For example, more than one third (39%) of people with a mobility impairment find it difficult to sleep in their bedroom because of the design of their home. They have to sleep in the lounge or kitchen instead.

More than 750,000 working age people become disabled every single year, more than half through injury or sudden illness. Without a disabled-friendly home, you could find your bedroom or bathroom out of reach, with no guarantee of somewhere suitable to move to, even if you wanted to.

The government must commit to building all homes in Ebbsfleet to Lifetime Homes Standards. Further, 10% of new homes should be built to full wheelchair accessible standards.

The government should also make sure Ebbsfleet is a truly disabled-friendly city. We are calling on the people in charge of planning to create town centres with disabled people’s needs in mind.

Entrances to all buildings should be level and ramps installed where necessary. There need to be parking bays near to shops and restaurants for those who have difficulty walking long distances. Pavements throughout the city should also be wide enough to allow wheelchairs to use them.

Meeting these standards means nobody will lose out. It is unlikely to cost developers more to build level entrances instead of steps, and disabled and older people will benefit enormously.

Building to these standards will make sure that people can live in the homes and neighbourhoods they know and love as they age. It keeps families together, and allows disabled people to visit friends and relatives at home — as we should all have the ability to do.

We have told the government that it is vital to build Ebbsfleet to disabled-friendly standards. Please add your voice to our Home Truths campaign: sign Sue's petition for more disabled-friendly homes.

Jane Harris is managing director of campaigns and engagement at Leonard Cheshire Disability. She tweets at @jane_harris77.

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