DISABILITY campaigners are calling for changes to make Britain’s housing accessible after a survey revealed most people considered their home a no-go area for wheelchair users.
The reason isn’t because wheelchair users are considered unwelcome in people’s homes, but because a lack of access means they would either struggle, or find it impossible, to access the home and its facilities.
In a survey commissioned by accessible housing provider Habinteg, YouGov surveyed 2,014 people in England, Wales and Scotland in August. It found that two thirds of Britons say their home is a no-go area for people in wheelchairs. According to the survey:
- Only one in five (21%) say a wheelchair user would reasonably be able to access all areas of their home
- Almost seven in 10 (69%) confirmed that such manoeuvrability would not be possible
- Under a third of respondents in England (31%) felt that wheelchair users would be able to make use of appliances in their home, including accessing the wardrobes and opening fridges and overs
Typical reasons for homes being inaccessible include steps into the front door, the width of doors into and around the house, and bathrooms that are located upstairs.
According to Habinteg, this “shocking” level of poor access is having a detrimental impact on the health and quality of life of disabled people and their families.
“Habinteg’s founding mission was to ensure that disabled people and non-disabled people can live together as neighbours,” said Sheron Carter, chief executive of Habinteg. “Today’s poll results show how far we have yet to go as a society. They reinforce what we have known for a long time: the government and local authorities are simply not doing enough for our disabled and older population.
“We are calling on the government to urgently change national policy to ensure all new homes are built to accessible and adaptable standards. This was promised by former Prime Minister Theresa May in July as part of a new consultation, and we now need the new PM to honour that pledge.”
The poll follows research that claims under a quarter (23%) of new homes outside London are planned to be accessible, despite a rapidly ageing population. Little wonder, then, that campaigners are demanding change.
Sarah O’Connor, a qualified nurse and wheelchair user from London, said: “I’ve been forced to physically drag myself up each step into my house, heaving my wheelchair behind me. I’ve had countless experiences where I’ve had to decline an invite to a colleague/friend’s house due to the pure anxiety of not knowing whether I’ll be able to go to the toilet or even reach the sink to wash my hands.”
Fi Anderson, another disability campaigner and wheelchair user from Bolton, said: “My eight-year wait for a suitably accessible property meant my kids were denied the chance to have a normal childhood where their mum could tuck them into bed and read them a book.
“Many disabled people know what it is like to suffer within our own homes. Habinteg’s poll is right to point out the number of British people who don’t believe their home is accessible for a wheelchair user to visit, but it is also crucial to draw attention to the number of wheelchair users who still have nowhere suitable to live. I know first-hand just how detrimental this is on mental and physical health.”
Responding to the survey, Holly Holder, evidence manager at the London-based Centre for Ageing Better, said: “This insightful polling lays bare the shocking state of our homes when it comes to access for wheelchair users.
“A safe and accessible home is deeply important for all of us. Whilst it’s not inevitable, the likelihood is that most of us will become less physically able as we grow older. And many people have mobility challenges from lifelong conditions or because of an accident.
“All of us benefit from step free, well designed spaces when we’re handling furniture, heavy shopping or luggage and welcoming visitors with access requirements. All new homes should be built to accessible standards, and people should be given more support to adapt and repair the homes they’re already in.”