We are busier than ever searching for properties for our clients looking for a wheelchair accessible home.
The most popular search we are asked for is a two bedroom, two bathroom property on one level with outside space in London. We are requested to find flats preferably on the ground floor or in a building with two lifts as a minimum.
You would think that this would be an easy enough search wouldn’t you, especially in the many new developments popping up? Frustratingly, this is not the case, not the case at all!
Often we turn up at the new developments and to start with the access into the building is step free the access via lifts is also good, so we can get into the building and up to the correct floor, tick! Getting into the apartment is usually OK as the doors are often wider than normal doorways, not always though…
But it’s once we get through the front door and into the property that the problems always begin. The doorways and corridors are often too narrow, making it difficult for a wheelchair user to get around, so often some rooms are not accessible at all.
But the main problem we have with our search time and time again, (95% of the time) is the bathroom which most new builds have and do not suit the majority of wheelchair users.
Even when we are viewing properties with a bathroom and en-suite, having checked the floor plans for the size and having double the chance of success, we are let down more often than not. Usually, a client will need a roll in shower, or something close to this. However, we find that the en-suite is too small, too cramped with toilets to close to the shower or sink. So no space for turning circles.
If we are lucky and there is enough space for a wheelchair most of the time the step up to the shower is too high, so it cannot be accessed easily or a ramp fitted either.
Considering of all new builds being developed 10% should be Lifetime Homes (these provide a model for building accessible and adaptable homes) this is clearly not happening and we see this on a daily basis.
Habintag recently reported ‘ “Only 7% of homes offer the four bare minimum access features – level access, a flush threshold, minimum standard door widths and circulation space, and a toilet on the entrance level floor”.
Thankfully for our clients we go to see the properties first to save them the trouble of turning up to unsuitable properties over and over again. But this is so frustrating that at the very least these four bare minimum and simple measures are not adhered to, making most of the new builds inaccessible to wheelchair users.
Developers really need to take this issue seriously as they do have a duty to take such steps and make adjustments, so , as stated in the Equality Act ‘a physical feature does not put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage’
Even looking at a property to purchase for a client this week out of London, the showroom flat was on the first floor, with no lifts and the office was up four stairs…
We shall be looking further into developers who do and do not adhere to guidelines on the provision of accessible units.