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How the housing crisis affects those with accessibility issues – Ed Todino in the Guardian

On Monday 28th July, The Guardian published an article by Ed Todino, a social work graduate and wheelchair user, on the difficulties that people with disabilities face when trying to find accommodation.

As a new graduate he is keen to move out of his parents’ house and find a place of his own in London, where the job market is strong but house prices are rising week on week.

However, being a wheelchair user, Ed faces a further obstacle in his search for affordable accommodation in that there simply are not enough properties which are adequately adapted for the basic accessibility needs of disabled people.

Livability’s Freedom to Live Report, which was referred to in the Guardian article, raised this issue in 2008 when it was found that:

  • At least 40% of disabled young people between the ages of 16 and 24 lived in accommodation that did not meet their needs
  • Just 15% of disabled people had a secure long-term tenancy or owned their own home
  • 30% of people with learning disabilities lived in residential care
  • 50-55% of people with learning disabilities lived with their families

Little has changed since then.  The data from this year’s English Homes Survey, based on 2012 housing stock, shows that just 5% of homes in England are accessible to disabled people. Ed’s first-hand experience of house hunting backs this up:

‘…there is a great deal of naivety regarding what “accessibility” means. I have often been told by estate agents that they have found a ground-floor, accessible property only to turn up and see several steps or other physical barriers, which defeat my aim of independent living.’

With adequate adaptations to housing, many disabled people are able to lead an independent lifestyle within their own home.  Part of Livability’s core mission, and a central aspect of the new Home Design Appeal campaign, is to allow disabled people the choice to live in a house which meets their needs, whether it is in purpose-built facilities or in standard-build houses that have been modified for accessibility.

Ed pointed out that the current housing system forces disabled people to put their needs ahead of their desires when it comes to where they live.  They may find themselves unable to live in certain areas or types of housing, which can lead to them being cut off from friends and family who have a wider choice of location.

The article shows that there is still a long way to go in changing attitudes towards disabled people whether in the housing market, in employment or in society as a whole.  Ed has raised a very important issue that affects thousands throughout the UK:

‘Like many disabled people and disability charities, including Livability, I believe more needs to be done to create disabled-friendly homes across the country so that those like me can have the freedom to live normally.’

Link to Ed’s article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/28/wheelchair-disabled-friendly-flat-accessible-housing-london



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