On International Women’s Day, our very own brilliant blogger Jess writes about how housing matters with accessibility at the forefront of her mind and how this impacts independence, inclusion and mental health. Read on below:
“Despite being involved in trying to find an accessible home, I realise that I have not really given this issue enough time/thought.
As with most things wheelchair related I was aware that there is always a need for adaptations, for things to be slightly different to meet the needs of a community that will never ‘fit the norm’ – In their need for special features. (Although I must confess I do think that many, supposedly, ‘disabled’ features can benefit the larger community. Who doesn’t like level access and wider doors?)
Having read a few articles from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who launched an inquiry into the disabled housing market which uncovered what they describe, as a hidden crisis. According to them, and this report is already two years out of date, only 5% of properties in England are suitable for wheelchair use. Considering there are now over 12 million people with a disability in England this figure is awful.
At the risk of becoming too politically obsessed by statistics, I was shocked to find out how few accessible houses are being built. Often the councils involved in hiring developers, blame these very developers for not producing the buildings they need. The report claims that 57% of councils make this complaint. However, only 3% of developers are held to account and taken to court.
It is also pointed out that only 22% of councils have an accessible housing list. A lovely analogy, written by one reporter was that “if finding your dream house was like looking for a needle in a haystack then finding your dream accessible House is a kin to finding a pea in a cathedral sized Bowl of soup!”
Having finally found your dream home, you then wait patiently as they search for an occupational therapist and you apply to the council for a DFG (Disabled Facilities Grant) if needed.
A lengthy process, but worthwhile, if the end result is to be independent living.
The ease and contentment that can be drawn from your own property can influence every part of your life. From how easily you can get out and socialise to how comfortable you feel inside. How easily you can access employment or any local amenities, gym, shops, swimming pool, doctors, libraries all have a direct effect on your mental well-being. Can you study peacefully? Can you have pets? I was not surprised to read that your mental health can be influenced by being in the wrong property. In the most extreme cases your physical health is also in jeopardy if you are stuck in the wrong property.
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of enlisting expert advice from a company such as Branch Properties, who are able to offer you advice and support at every stage of your journey towards looking for your own piece of independent living”
Jess and our team would be delighted to hear your thoughts and comments on this and if you have any similar experiences to share. Please respond to this or email Jess at firstname.lastname@example.org