How to make a disabled-friendly home
22 July 2014
by Jane Harris
Last week we launched Home Truths, our campaign calling for more disabled-friendly homes. Right now, too many disabled people have to sleep in their living room and wash at their kitchen sink. Suitable, disabled-friendly homes are simply not available for them.
But no two people's needs are the same. The important thing is that homes are built to be easily adaptable according to your individual needs. So how do you build a disabled-friendly home?
Lifetime Homes are ordinary homes built with a small number of special features which means they can be cheaply adapted if your needs change. They all have flat entrances, wider doors for wheelchair access and stronger walls to support things like grab bars.
We're calling for all new homes to be built to Lifetime Homes Standards so if someone becomes disabled, or their disability changes, they don’t need to pay for changes to the walls or stairs — or be forced to move. This only costs an additional £500–1,000 for an average house — a tiny amount compared to how much money can be saved in adaptations, hospital visits and extra care.
Wheelchair accessible homes are a bit more expensive to build but are essential for people who use wheelchairs to live independent lives. We want 10% of new homes to be built this way. Read our report, The Hidden Housing Crisis, for more details.
Living with dignity
All pathways, hallways and doorways need to be wide enough for a wheelchair. Nobody can live with dignity if they’re unable to use their bedroom, bathroom or kitchen, or just can't move from room to room.
- Getting around. This is important in the home but also outdoors in the garden and parking spaces. Doorways don't just have to be wide enough to fit a wheelchair though: there needs to be space for a wheelchair to turn around.
Using the bathroom. As we learned from Sue’s story, some disabled people have difficulty getting upstairs to their bathroom, so have to wash at the kitchen sink. Other people have told us they have to use a bucket as a toilet. Even if you can get to your bathroom, you might still need enough space for a wheelchair, and to transfer to the toilet.
It's essential that walls and ceilings are strong enough to fit supports and hoists where necessary. It should also be possible to install a level-access shower with controls within easy reach.
In the kitchen. Whether you enjoy cooking or not, making lunch or dinner is something we take for granted. But as Carlene says, small kitchens and out of reach appliances often make this impossible.
Kitchens need to be big enough for a wheelchair user to get around and have appliances in easy reach. Our partners Howdens Joinery produce a range of inclusive kitchens where even the sinks move up and down.
Sue is campaigning for more disabled friendly homes and tells us what a disabled-friendly home would look like to her:
‘A disabled-friendly home to me should look spacious, with wider doorways to easily get from one room to another, with a wet-room so I can shower and use the loo in private. I would like a bedroom where I can sleep, as opposed to now where I have to sleep in my lounge. It should have a kitchen with lower cupboards and a sink at the right height, electric sockets should be at waist height, so I can use these things. It should have level access to the front door.’
To support Sue’s campaign for disabled-friendly homes, please sign her petition.
Jane Harris is managing director of campaigns and engagement at Leonard Cheshire Disability. She tweets at @jane_harris77.