Throughout my university life I was lucky enough to combine my degree with my passion for property, and it was over these four years that I discovered I had a real interest in disability and housing. I was able to develop my knowledge and understanding around this topic during this time, and I decided recently that I would really like to share some of this work in a post to outline some of my findings from one particular assignment that I did to shed some light on the issue.
We live in a world where the definition for of what exactly ‘disabled’ means has changing goal posts meaning that throughout their lives, people with disabilities face many struggles with regards to their independence and inclusion into society and the multiple and various barriers hindering people with impairments from accessing appropriate and affordable housing highlight this.
In order to consider the challenges those with impairments face around homes, it is important to first reflect on what a ‘home’ is, and then consider the four categories under which these barriers fall: design, finance, attitudes and availability.
‘Homes’ come under a broad definition; currently, there are various different housing options for those with disabilities, examples of this include getting funding to adapt one’s own house, buying a ready-adapted house, supported accommodation, sheltered accommodation etc. It is important that the individual has somewhere to live that suits their own needs and wants best, and so the process of selecting a house to live in must be individualised to the person and the context of their family and social situation.
The availability of suitable adapted housing is a serious issue in the UK today; there is a shortfall in appropriate homes, and this limits the choice for people with impairments.
Even when the individual finds a property that suits them in terms of adaptability, there is a strong possibility that it will not be in an area of their choice. This therefore means that the person is likely to be living far away from close family or friends and there is a high chance that they are unable to interact properly with a community; thus making them disabled in a social sense.
The design of a home is important for anyone; however for people with impairments, certain design elements are crucial and suddenly other desirable criteria such as proximity to good schools or a south-facing garden get lower down the priority list. If a home is inadequately designed, then the individual will not be able to use the property to its full purpose, if at all, and unfortunately this barrier to housing for people with disabilities appears to be a common occurrence. This can have a seriously negative effect on the individual’s psyche and self-esteem and can have repercussions for their family too.
Having a property that suits the needs of the individual allows them to be independent, to have choice and control over their situation, and self-actualise, without having to compromise, struggle or rely on relatives, spouses or paid carers.
Finance is another really important aspect to consider when looking at the barriers and opportunities disabled people face when looking at housing and the idea of independent living associated with it. Cuts to services, disability benefits, rising house prices and adaptions to homes not coming cheap means the odds are stacked against a disabled person looking for somewhere to call home.
That said there are funds available to try and get help to cover the costs of adaptions to a home. The Disabled Facilities Grant is an example of this and is a sum of money up to £30,000 (in England) which can be granted by a local authority to an individual who is either a homeowner or tenant, for the purpose of helping meet the costs of adapting a dwelling to ensure that the needs and requirements of that person are met however the amount of money granted depends on income and savings, and so is means-tested.
Attitudes and assumptions that people make regarding those with impairments have a significant impact, not only on the individual but also on society as a whole. In more recent times, with government cuts and the media portraying and stereotyping people with impairments in a certain way, in some cases even making them out to be ‘scroungers’, these people face increasing stigma when trying to access something so important as housing.
Groups of property professionals such as building developers have the capability to impact positively or negatively on the availability of adapted housing. Further to this increasing awareness of adapted housing, wider doors, ramps and accessible wet rooms will make them less unusual and they will become the social norm; in itself, this can be hugely significant in reducing the stigma around those with impairments and their lifestyle.
It is clear I have only scratched the surface here and I could go into so much more detail regarding this subject, but of course this is a blog post not an essay and I really wanted this to be an easy read for people who might be interested in the topic themselves or maybe work in property industry and are interested in getting an insight into the barriers. If you have any questions or want further details just ask.
Photos are not my own and were found on Pinterest via links belonging to:
Header Image – Transform Architects
Bathroom Image – Wetrooms Online
Kitchen Image – The House Shop