Local and national government could take simple steps that would make it easier for thousands of wheelchair-users to find accessible homes, according to a new report.
The Mind the Step report estimates that about 78,000, or 13 per cent, of households in England that include a wheelchair-user are living in homes that are not fully wheelchair-accessible.
The report – produced by the accessible housing association Habinteg and London South Bank University – says that only about 16 per cent of all homes in England would allow a wheelchair-user to enter easily through the front door.
Sandra Ruddick, a wheelchair-user and a Habinteg tenant and board member, who spoke at this week’s launch of the report, said there was “such a vast amount of need out there” for wheelchair-accessible housing.
She also pointed to the contrasting provision in different parts of the country, sometimes even between neighbouring London boroughs.
Nearly one in four wheelchair-user households in the north-west of England and nearly one in five in London are in accommodation that is not fully wheelchair-accessible, compared with less than one in ten in the south-west and one in 20 in the south-east.
The report concludes: “The figures are not huge, the solutions are not complicated and most of the mechanisms to increase the supply of suitably designed homes and improve the accessibility of people’s existing homes are already in place.”
Among its recommendations, the report calls for more new homes to be built to wheelchair-accessible standards and for the government to recognise the importance of adaptations to homes.
It also criticises the inefficient allocation of existing accessible and adaptable social housing – in 2008-09 only 22 per cent of local authority and housing association “wheelchair standard” properties were allocated to households that included a wheelchair-user.
Councils, it says, should set up accessible housing registers to hold information on accessible properties and housing applicants who need wheelchair-accessible housing.
The report also calls for continued funding for wheelchair-accessible housing from the Homes and Communities Agency, which sponsored the report, and for local authorities to ensure that wheelchair standard homes are included in all new developments with reasonable access to local amenities.
It suggests that local authorities should use the report’s figures on unmet housing need to set their own five-year targets for the development of new wheelchair standard homes.
And it calls on estate agents and lettings agencies to use accessibility as a selling point in advertising homes for sale or rent.