Disabled adults struggling with inaccessible homes
Disabled adults across the UK are struggling with inaccessible homes, according to research commissioned by disability charity Leonard Cheshire earlier this year.
- UK-wide 2022 survey reveals disabled people often struggle with routine tasks at home because of inaccessibility.
- One in four (25%) people with housing accessibility needs find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to get into their own homes easily.*
- More than half of people (57%) with housing accessibility needs say it’s “difficult” or “very difficult” to take a bath or shower in their own homes.
One in four respondents (25%) with housing accessibility needs say it’s difficult to get into their own homes – an estimated one million working-age disabled people across the UK.*
The shocking findings follow the charity’s 2020 research showing disabled people facing long delays for vital home adaptations. Problems are compounded by huge waiting lists for suitably accessible social housing, according to Habinteg Housing Association.
Emma Donaldson, 35, a wheelchair user from Hucknall in Nottinghamshire, first applied for an accessible council house at least eight years ago before finally moving in 2022. She was offered several unsuitable properties with steps in the interim period.
“Finally getting an accessible property was such a relief. It meant I could live together with my partner, Wes, and move out of my parents’ house at 35. It was a huge boost to my independence and definitely helped my relationship too.”
Leonard Cheshire’s latest research shows people who have difficulty finding accessible homes can face severe consequences, with three in ten (29%) saying it left them unable to work.
The charity’s UK-wide representative survey shows many disabled people have housing accessibility needs and continue to face challenges in their current property.* More than half (57%) of people with housing accessibility needs say it's difficult to take a bath or shower while again more than half (53%) face difficulty using the stairs safely. *
Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, said:
“Underfunded councils need more resources to ensure they can meet rising demand for vital home adaptations. A lack of accessible homes is restricting people’s independence, as well as their opportunities to work and socialise. Disabled people need a place to live that is safe, comfortable and meets their needs.”
Recent research from Habinteg Housing Association in England reveals 20,000 people are waiting for a wheelchair accessible home and a further 104,000 people are waiting for “accessible and adaptable homes.” Further BBC investigations show many local authorities, including some major UK cities, have no plans at all for accessible homes.
Nick Apetroaie, CEO of Habinteg Housing Association, said: “Accessible homes have an enormous impact on people’s lives. They provide dignity and independence, help people stay in work and keep families together. Yet there is a chronic shortage of accessible homes across the UK.
“In July, the government committed to changing building regulations to make new homes accessible by default. We need to accelerate that change because accessible homes are better for everyone, disabled or not.”
Leonard Cheshire and Habinteg are calling for the government to honour its commitment to make all new homes accessible and adaptable (also known category 2). Both charities have campaigned to ensure at least 10% of all new homes are wheelchair accessible, and are also calling for local authorities to assess the need for wheelchair accessible housing in their area.
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About our housing research
Savanta ComRes interviewed 1,207 working age disabled adults (18-64) in the UK from 17 to 21 February 2022 about their experiences in the previous 12 months.
Data were weighted to be nationally representative of working age disabled adults in the UK by age, gender and region. Survey boosts were conducted for respondents living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to ensure sample sizes sufficient for analysis.
- * 523 people had housing accessibility needs at the time of the survey: they responded that they had had adaptations or needed them. For more see the next three sections directly below.
Key survey question and calculation
43% of working-age disabled respondents had adaptations to their home or still need them.
Q: Have you had adaptations made to your home to make it more accessible for you?
- Yes, financed by me or my family / friends (19%).
- Yes, financed by the Disabled Facilities Grant (11%).
- No, but I require adaptations to make it more accessible (13%).
- I don’t have accessibility needs (57%).
More on the key calculations
The UK population of working-age disabled people in Jul-Sep 2022 (latest figures available) was 9,329,000.
More than four in ten (43%) working-age disabled respondents had adaptations to their home or still need them: This equates to just over 4 million people in all types of housing ownership (4,011,000).
Of the people who needed or still need home adaptations, one in four (25%) say it’s difficult to get into their own homes easily. This equates to just over 1 million people (1,003,000).
More stats from working-age disabled respondents with housing accessibility needs (those who needed or still need home adaptations)
More than half (57%) of all disabled respondents say it’s difficult to take a bath or shower. The figure rises to three out of four (75%) people with conditions affecting mobility or movement. Four out of ten (40%) disabled respondents find it difficult to use the bathroom in their own home.
53% of all disabled respondents face difficulty using the stairs safely, rising to seven out of ten (70%) people with mobility-related conditions. Nearly a quarter (23%) of all disabled adults find it difficult to access their kitchens.
Three in ten disabled respondents face difficulties sleeping in their own room rather than another room (31%), with roughly the same number of people finding it difficult controlling their heating (29%).
The government commitment to make homes “accessible and adaptable”
In summer 2022 the government made a commitment in a housing consultation (page last updated 29/07/22 and accessed 01/12/22): they proposed that the minimum standard for new, planned homes should be that they are “accessible and adaptable” (also known as category 2) homes and not just visitable (category 1) as it currently is now. However, there is no date for the introduction of this new commitment.
London is one of the few places in the UK with a target for the number of wheelchair accessible properties (also known as category 3 homes). First introduced in 2004, a minimum of 10% of planned properties must meet this standard. There are no national targets for the number of wheelchair accessible properties.
Survey response: major consequences for those struggling to find their accessible home
The Leonard Cheshire survey also showed: people who have difficulty finding accessible homes face severe consequences, with almost one in four (23%) unable to leave the house independently and three in ten (29%) unable to work.