Accessible housing: The key to a happier life
To mark Accessible Homes week, we speak to Kerry Thompson – a disability campaigner who knows the difference accessible housing can make to someone’s life.
I am in my mid-40s, and I live with my husband in Milton Keynes. I have muscular dystrophy (MD), a progressive muscle-wasting condition.
Unsuitable housing and avoidable risk
I spent seven long years in a flat that was labelled as accessible, and it left me pretty much isolated and in a sitting room chair all day long. The flat was up a steep hill. Crucially, it wasn’t large enough for a wheelchair user to move around.
My condition back then had already reached the stage where if I tried to stand – at the kitchen sink, for example – I would be at risk of falling. MD means my mobility gradually decreases. I had several falls, one of which left me with a large cut on the head. Yet if I used my wheelchair, the doorways in the flat weren’t wide enough for me to turn corners.
Because of the challenges of navigating my flat, I ended up just sitting in an armchair for most of my time. I was existing and not really living. This led to depression.
After four years of weekly phone calls to my local authority, including being told several times that I had to be 65 or older to get a bungalow, I was finally offered a suitable property. It proved to be the turning point that I needed in my life.
Since I moved into my bungalow, I have totally rebuilt my life.
This property has enabled me to live life to the fullest. I’m not on anti-depressants any more, I’m active in my community, I’m able to go out with family and friends, and I have a job again. It’s taken me a while to become this active and engaged again.
I’d lived so long not having a purpose that I’d forgotten what it was like to have one. Having a home suitable for my needs was the start of getting my life back.
This property has enabled me to live life to the fullest. I’m not on anti-depressants any more, I’m active in my community, I’m able to go out with family and friends, and I have a job again.
Accessible homes: a big economic and social positive
My experience, while several years ago now, is sadly very common. Accessible homes are still in short supply across the UK. Wheelchair accessible homes are even more rare. And there are no clear targets to build new ones.
That’s why I’m pleased that Leonard Cheshire is backing Habinteg’s Housing Association’s crucial research showing the economic and social value of wheelchair user homes – research that demonstrates clear public benefits for highly accessible housing.
The latest research underlines the importance of key Habinteg recommendations backed by Leonard Cheshire.
It’s vital that all local authorities set targets for the construction of new wheelchair accessible homes. Any local plan for building homes that doesn’t specify a number or proportion of wheelchair accessible homes must be rejected by the Planning Inspectorate.
I have my accessible home. It’s changed my life. Other people deserve that chance too.