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Over half of Brits say they won’t be able to live in their home if they become disabled

Habinteg tenant Ian Wheaton at his wheelchair accessible home

Over half of British adults say they will have to leave their homes if they become physically disabled, new research commissioned by Habinteg Housing Association reveals.

The YouGov survey, published today, shows that 55% of British adults, who do not have a mobility difficultly, think they would not be able to live in their current home, due to its design and layout, if they become physically disabled.

The survey, which was commissioned as part of Habinteg’s annual #ForAccessibleHomes week, found that of those who said they would have to move, 77% identified internal steps and stairs as the main reason for having to leave their home.

Meanwhile, 48% of British adults felt that their bathroom was not accessible enough, and 44% said that steps up to the front door would be a significant issue if they were to become physically disabled.

The survey also invited people to consider the needs of some of the older people that they know. Just over a third (36%) of adults know someone aged 65+ who they think would need to find a suitable home as their mobility needs change. Of that 36%, three in five (59%) felt that it would be difficult to find a suitable property.

These findings come just six weeks after the Government published its disability strategy. Among eight commitments on housing, the strategy promises further research and a response to the 2020 consultation on raising accessibility standards for new homes.

Habinteg’s Chief Executive, Nick Apetroaie, said: “It’s no surprise that the majority of people who responded to our survey feared that their home wouldn’t be suitable if they were to become physically disabled.

“Adequate housing is fundamental to inclusion and equality for disabled and older people, but there’s simply not enough supply for the growing demand.

 “The Government’s disability strategy promises more research into inclusive and accessible housing. However we need action fast rather than more research to solve the immediate and long term needs of the population.

“What the Government do or don’t do next will effect disabled and older people for many generations to come. We urge them to raise accessibility standards for new homes in their response to the consultation; it’s now make or break for accessible homes.”

When an accident at home changed Habinteg tenant John Laville's life two and half years ago, his two storey council house, which he'd lived in for 15 years, made him feel like a prisoner.

John said:  “I know just what it feels like to have your independence snatched away because your home isn’t accessible enough.

“As much as these results show that a lot of people believe their homes aren’t accessible enough, the reality is that the vast majority of people would struggle if they were faced with suddenly being disabled.

“After my accident, which left me in a wheelchair, I spent over two years looking for a home that allowed me to do basic things, like go to the bathroom alone. I almost gave up.

“Even though I’ve now found my accessible home, we urgently need to raise accessibility standards so other disabled people can also live independently. I would hate for someone else to have the same experiences as me when I first became a wheelchair user, just because there aren’t enough suitable homes available.”

Jacquel Runnalls, Accessible and Inclusive Housing Lead, Royal College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section in Housing, added: “It’s often not until people reach crisis point that they realise their homes are unsuitable to meet their long term needs, and, depending on the circumstances, moving home or adapting isn’t always possible or ideal for the individual.

“It’s therefore vital that we push for accessible and adaptable standards in all new homes if our housing is going to become genuinely inclusive and stand the test of time for current and future generations.”

Habinteg will run its sixth annual #ForAccessibleHomes week from 13-17 September 2021. The housing association’s annual week campaigns for an increase in accessible homes and highlights the positive impact they can bring to individuals, families and the community.

Find out more at www.habinteg.org.uk/FAH.  

Notes to Editors

  1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. 
  2. Total sample size was 2,030 adults, of which 1,788 adults did not have a mobility difficulty that require them to have an accessible housing feature in their home. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 20th August 2021. 
  3. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  4. Jacquel Runnalls is the Accessible and Inclusive Housing Lead at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, and is currently working with the Estate Regeneration Team at the London Borough of Wandsworth.

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