Inclusivity should be for all and accessibility is a warm, friendly word which is welcoming and inviting. Definitely how we want to feel about our home. It’s popular because it represents the best of how we can behave towards each other. It suggests families, friends, adventures, fun and all the stuff of life at home.
When we apply accessibility to housing it highlights the difference between possible and excluded. Inaccessible means unavailable and unattainable. It gives a message of exclusion and privilege about who can get through the front door.
What we at Branch Properties find disheartening, is that so many properties described as accessible, actually have a step up or down at the door. Or, once inside, what was described as level access has a threshold across the middle of the floor, or the shower is in the bath or has a step up to a tray that makes in accessible.
Our mission at Branch Properties is to find accessible homes and encourage landlords or homeowners to invest in adaptions, and you can read our most recent blog about this here. What we find so upsetting is the situation where people can’t have their dream home or have to move simply, because the property is not accessible and therefore a no-go area for a wheelchair user.
Too often, people who have had life-changing accidents or illnesses also loose their home because they can no-longer use the upstairs or climb the steps to the front door. If you think most bathrooms are upstairs and most bedrooms which are impossible for a full time wheelchair user to get to. How many times have we heard people say, they long to read a goodnight story to their children in their bed, but can’t.
With this in mind, we intend to have a series of blogs with experts in their field about how homes can be improved and adapted, and this week we have been talking to Neil Smith of Enable Access a firm which specialises in designing and manufacturing mobility access and wheelchair ramp and half-step solutions, and emergency stairway evacuation chairs here in the UK.
As a family business ourselves, it was great to hear that Neil joined Enable Access, the family business founded in 1998 by his father-in-law with the purpose of making accessibility a reality. “We aim to always find a way to make access possible,” he explained, “be it at the front door, a porch, internal steps, access to the wet room or shower, or the garden.”
After their survey revealed that the biggest challenge faced by most people at home was the UPVC threshold, they developed a focus on ways to solve access issues around awkward, fragile uPVC thresholds, and you can watch their video and blog at Wheelchair Ramp Assessing – How to easily overcome the dreaded PVC threshold! – Enable Access (enable-access.com).
When I asked what he was most proud of in relation to the business, he said that it was their ability and motivation, as a team, to overcome the seemingly impossible challenges of accessibility with new ideas and innovations. One of their new products is the Butterfly ramp (pictured above) which is fantastically easy to use, portable, and which intuitively levels both sides of a step or threshold. Another is the Aerolight-up and over combination ramp for where there is more than one level to navigate which is pictured below.
The business relies heavily on precision. With the founder having over 20 years experience as an engineer, making safe ramps is guaranteed. We asked for an example of what could go wrong in a ramp created by someone who isn’t an expert, and Neil summed up his response in one photo showing something resembling a ski-slope. Maybe the kids would love to use a dramatic drop for skateboarding or other tricks, but a steep gradient is dangerous. Especially for a wheelchair user.
Don’t try to DIY it, go to professionals such as Enable Access for advice and expert in-put. “The critical question for us,” Neil added, “is to find out what is sensible, appropriate and safe for each individual customer. There is no one-size-fits-all. We do whatever is needed to achieve the best for the client, to ensure their quality of life in their own home. Making sure that people can stay at home, living in their own environment, is what we care about the most.”
If you have a property to let or adapt, or need some adaptions to be able to continue to live at home, do give us a call on 020 345 4022, or firstname.lastname@example.org and if its getting in, out or around the home that is the major issue, do contact our friends at Enable Access for friendly expert advice and quotes.