Sarah Beeny: Backing the call for disabled-friendly homes
30 November 2014
by Sarah Beeny
While filming my recent series of Channel 4’s Double Your House for Half the Money I met an inspiring couple, Laura and Adam Margolis, who had decided to upgrade their home in Radlett, Hertfordshire to make it more disabled-friendly.
Adam Margolis, 35, has progressive multiple sclerosis and struggled to walk more than a few metres. With Adam facing a lifetime using a wheelchair, the couple made smart choices to ensure their home was well adapted for the future, allowing them to raise their two young daughters in a home without barriers and daily challenges.
I watched the couple transform a house with a warren of inaccessible rooms and narrow corridors into an open and spacious home that suited their family and fit into their lifestyle. The radical change gave Adam the independence, safety and security he needed to get around using a wheelchair but, more importantly, the freedom to enjoy family life.
Adam no longer has to feel like a prisoner in his own home, confined to a limited number of rooms. He can go to the bathroom without help, answer the door bell, and put his children to bed. Before the renovation, he couldn’t get into his children’s bedrooms to wish them goodnight.
Misery of inaccessible housing
Adam and Laura’s story brought home the misery that inaccessible housing can cause for many disabled people and their families. They, like the rest of us, want to enjoy the same ease and comfort of moving around freely, living independently and having complete access — things we can all take for granted every day.
A recent report by Leonard Cheshire Disability found that thousands of disabled people in Great Britain are being forced to live in ‘Victorian’ conditions — washing at their kitchen sinks, using commodes for the toilet, and sleeping in their living rooms, because of a severe lack of disabled-friendly housing. This is completely unacceptable.
The report shows that the problem is more widespread than we think, with one in ten of us reporting a mobility problem. Of these, almost three-quarters say that they do not have a door to their building they can easily get into, more than half say that they do not have doors and hallways wide enough for a wheelchair, and half say that they do not have stairs big enough for a stair-lift to be fitted. Over the whole of England, the government estimates that only 5% of homes are fully possible to visit — let alone live in — for disabled people.
For those who don’t have the money to adapt their properties, or whose homes just cannot be adapted in the way they need, the choice of suitable housing is negligible. Even on the rare occasions when there are some disabled-friendly homes in an area, it can be all but impossible to find them, leaving many people trapped in houses that are totally unsuitable for their needs. At worst, these houses of horror are causing severe discomfort, health problems and isolation.
Joining the call for more disabled-friendly homes
I am joining the call by Leonard Cheshire to urge the government to make sure all new homes are built to be adaptable for disabled people in future and 10% are wheelchair friendly as part of their Home Truths campaign.
I saw the Margolis family intelligently future-proof their home to make it a secure and perfect place they can spend the rest of their lives. Let’s ensure that all disabled people have the same opportunity to live out their lives and enjoy the same comforts as everyone else. After all, any one of us could need a disabled-friendly home someday.