It is with great sadness that we learned about the passing of Sir Bert Massie, ex Habinteg tenant and champion of equality for disabled people.
Sir Bert, born in Liverpool in 1949, became a Habinteg tenant in the 70s after moving to London to pursue his career. After a period as director of Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) he went on to serve for seven years as chair of the Disability Rights Commission and then as a founding member of it successor organisation the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
He was also the first disabled member of Habinteg’s Board and a long term supporter of our work providing and promoting inclusive housing where disabled and non-disabled people live side by side.
Sir Bert, who was knighted in May 2007 for services to disabled people was hugely influential on Habinteg and was always willing to support our work. In 2006 he wrote the foreword to the second edition of our Wheelchair Housing Design Guide. More recently he visited London to help us celebrate the 40th Anniversary of our first ever development, Moira Close in Tottenham, the scheme on which he himself was a tenant. He was more than happy to make a long round trip by train from his Liverpool home to be with us for the day and his warmth, sense of humour and generosity of spirit were tangible. He seemed to simply and naturally pick up where he had left off with both staff and tenants. Speaking at that event he said:
“I know from my own experience how important having an accessible home is to living independently. When I first came here in 1978 it was impossible to find an accessible home in London and my life would have been different without the support Habinteg gave me.”
Bert's legacy will live on for a long time within Habinteg, not least in the way we campaign for accessible inclusive homes. It’s hard to top the explanation that he gave for the positive value of the inclusive Lifetime Homes standard and those of us tasked with the job of persuading national and local policy makers still use it on a regular basis. It goes along the lines of ‘It’s all very well for my neighbour to visit me for a sociable evening and drink my whiskey, but I want to be able to return the compliment – go to their house and drink their whiskey too!’
We are proud to name Sir Bert as an ex Habinteg tenant and we’re profoundly grateful for the impact he had not only on Habinteg, but on the lives of disabled people far and wide. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends at this difficult time.