How to make a disabled-friendly home

22 July 2014

Jane Harrisby 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

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.


As much as i know not all disabled people can use showers i would like to see a bath and shower in properties as some disabled people prefer this and baths are sometimes better for some disabled people

This is so ture. I was told I had to have wetroom. But the drain has to be cleaned out regulary as it blokes n smells..which I struggle to do so have to pay someone to come clean it:-( all I needed was a walk in shower.

I live in a disabled bungalow but my disability doesn't need the use of a wheelchair. My housing association refuse to adapt my kitchen to my needs as they see it as already being adapted. Not that it's wheelchair friendly either as the gap between the units is far too narrow. I have been fighting with them for almost 7 years on this, only to be told a variety of excuses- it's already adapted, because it would cost more that £500 and it's not in the main area the housing association are based they won't do it, do it myself, it's too new so can't replace it or the best one (which I have been told on 3 occasions) if you don't like it move house. I think this is disgusting but this is what I need to put up with.

I appreciate your frustration. I live in son adapted flat but am a wheelchair user.
I suggest you get the support of your social services OT to negotiate on your behalf. The OT will have an understanding of your medical condition which it is unlikely the housing association will have.

I live in a 2 bed bungalow n have 2 xhildren and a step son. I found a three bed large bungalow to exchange with both of us need eaxh others she needs smallar I need bigger. Council accepted request to exchange site and forms and even done my home check telling me shouldnt take long as both with same council and no issues. Then few weeks later we get told its going to be refused because the large 3 bed is going back to sheltered accommodation and im not entitled to it as not over many 55 plus need a large 3 bed. Its disgusting that council can do this. We are trying to fight it but cant believe they can do this. We both backed n ready. N im now tripping over n hurting myself n have no idea what todo:-(

My partner is disabled and my daughter is blind we had to wait for 18 months for the complex adaptions team to see us then they said we had to move there is no were to move to my partner is in a wheelchair and bed bound we bided on a property number 1 on the list and was refused as it needed adaptation so my partner lives eats sleeps washes and goes the toilet in one room the doorways are to small for her wheelchair to get through and the ot said the standing hoist that we went to see was not for the property we are in so I lift my partner to transfer her this is what the government say is exceptable not really

A inexpensive way for a disabled person to bathe is using the new hands free shower chair and it fits in a standard shower. It has soap and rinse cycle(s) plus a hand held wand to wash the upper body. I highly recommend this for someone who doesn’t want to remodel and have a bathing experience without assistance.

I am a property developer who is looking to start developing properties specifically for adapted living. I am based in Rossendale and looking to initially start within the North West area. I would like to speak to anyone that may find purpose renovated properties useful.



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