Accessible Housing - What people want
There’s much emphasis on affordable housing.
What about accessible housing? Is that actually not more important, that we address enabling people to stay in their homes, for as long as possible, with as much independence as possible?
Accessible housing- or more precisely, what people want in accessible housing- isn’t hard to achieve. Nor would it cost much- if anything- to create. The criteria already exist, in Lifetime Homes and Building Regulations Approved Document M Part 2. “All” it needs is for it to become a legal requirement for housebuilders- private and social- to integrate it into their plans.
I say ‘all’ because even though it is in the Building Regulations, it is not mandatory. There is talk about the Government beginning consultations about it. Leading disability campaigner Baroness Celia Thomas asks is just one voice asking whether that’s necessary and lobbying for the category to become mandatory as soon as possible.
Increasing the number of affordable homes is being achieved. Can we not apply the same criteria to planning for accessible homes, for example 20% of any homes in developments exceeding a certain size should be accessible?
Accessible homes are not hard to build. Indeed, an informal survey we undertook showed the main criteria are level access, wheelchair-wide doorways, a downstairs WC (ideally including a Closomat shower/ wash dry WC and potential to add a ceiling track hoist between bedroom and bathroom.
Most new build houses have a downstairs cloakroom now. All that is therefore needed is:
- a little thought at the design stage, to widen doorways
- rethink layouts so a wheelchair can manoeuvre,
- build so that walls, ceilings can be appropriately load-bearing.
Indeed, several respondents actually suggested open plan layouts, not only to ease manoeuvrability if in a wheelchair, but to enable enhanced interaction.
On that basis, one would most likely find there is no significant extra cost in making a home accessible, a lifetime home, from the outset.
It just needs to happen….