Home Sweet Hell
16 July 2014
by Jane Harris
Imagine getting home from work today, looking forward to relaxing in front of the TV with a takeaway.
Now imagine if you couldn’t get through your own front door without someone having to carry you in. Imagine you couldn’t get upstairs to use your bathroom and had to wash at the kitchen sink or use a commode in the dining room.
How relaxing does your evening sound now?
For thousands of disabled people this is their everyday life. New research we've published today shows that over 7 in 10 (72%) British adults reporting mobility problems say they don't have a door into their building that they can get through. It might not be wide enough for their wheelchair, or there may be steps leading to the door.
And half (50%) the people reporting mobility problems say they don't have stairs big enough for a stair-lift to be fitted. For thousands of disabled people this means they can’t get upstairs to sleep in their own bedrooms.
These are the kind of problems that make thousands of homes into ‘home sweet hell’. Sue became a wheelchair user following an accident in 2012, and has been trying to find a new home every day for more than two years. She can't go upstairs to use her bathroom so has to wash at her kitchen sink where the neighbours can see her.
Even worse, the door to her downstairs toilet had to be removed in order to fit her wheelchair inside, so if people come round to visit they have to leave if she needs to use the toilet.
The solution to these problems is pretty simple — and relies mainly on good forward planning. Some people only need very small changes made to their home if they become disabled. For some, a grab bar installed on the staircase to help prevent slipping and falling would make their homes liveable again. Others might need bigger changes, such as a ramp to the front door, a hoist, or enough space in their bathroom to fit a wheelchair alongside the toilet.
But these adaptations are simply impossible in a disturbingly large proportion of homes in the UK. Too often, walls are not strong enough to install grab bars, bathrooms are not large enough to fit wheelchairs, or staircases aren’t wide enough for a stair-lift.
Wherever these changes can’t be made, the results are the same — people’s health and dignity suffers. A fall on the stairs will need an ambulance called and even a trip to the local hospital.
Build more disabled-friendly homes
We want this to stop. We are calling for house builders and all political parties to commit to make sure the next generation of homes are all easily adaptable — with downstairs toilets, stronger walls to fit grab bars and bathrooms on the same level as bedrooms. And we want at least one in ten homes to be built so that people who use wheelchairs can live in them.
With our support, Sue has set up a petition for more disabled-friendly homes. She's asking the housing ministers from across the UK to meet her to hear how the lack of disabled-friendly homes is making her life a misery.
Jane Harris is managing director of campaigns and engagement at Leonard Cheshire Disability. She tweets at @jane_harris77.
ComRes interviewed 2,006 GB adults online between 4 and 6 June 2014, including 238 who self-identified as having a mobility impairment. Data was weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available on the ComRes website.