UK Housing's Future Has Accessibility at Its Heart | Latest news

UK Housing's Future Has Accessibility at Its Heart

I’m proud to say that I’m #ForAccessibleHomes. Together we need to make our calls impossible to ignore.

It is a scandal that we’re still debating the merits of accessible homes and trying to convince people that an inclusive housing future needs a national plan that delivers without delay. What are we waiting for?

My mum was a wheelchair user and I grew up in an accessible housing association place in the ‘90s. There’s lots I didn’t know back then (life beyond melancholic indie music and dodgy haircuts mainly) but I knew we were lucky. What I didn’t know was the extent of the accessible housing shortage across the country. We enjoyed family life in a space that was accessible for all of our needs, surrounded by other families, and enabling us to take the opportunities this brings it was home. That this is still a distant dream for many disabled people is heart-breaking.

It shouldn’t be down to luck or lottery to find a home that meets (and can adapt to) your needs. This is why campaigning for accessible homes can be so frustrating. I haven’t yet met a planner, policy maker or politician that doesn’t grasp the basic concept. Their own experiences and those of friends and family tell them accessible homes are urgently needed. Whether they are making housing plans with parents, worrying that their disabled child can’t find anywhere to call home or waiting for adaptations to make their own lives easier, they know it just makes sense. And the national statistics on the accessible housing deficit should also be impossible to dismiss.

So why is the accessible housing crisis too often overlooked? I understand there are other pressures in addressing the wider UK housing crisis. Affordability is, of course, a key factor. But I don’t believe affordability and accessibility are mutually exclusive when inclusive design is present from the start. We mustn’t fall for the often bogus ‘viability’ argument without challenge.

I believe an inclusive future is possible with housing at its heart:

  1. We need a new wide-ranging ‘Access Act’, placing greater inclusion into the law. Let’s see effective national duties on accessible housing, much better transport provision, inclusive built environments and many more Changing Places toilets for a start
  2. Let’s demand leadership from national and local politicians on housing strategies that implement default accessible homes standards and work for everyone
  3. Measurement leads to things getting done – we need a nationwide register of the number of accessible homes built nationwide to show progress or short-fall so we can grow an indisputable evidence base
  4. Let’s raise access and inclusion to the top of the local authority and housing sector priority list with access experts consulted formally and regularly by planning departments and housing association developers
  5. We can mobilise experts to build the understanding and impacts of inclusive design amongst architects, planners, developers….everyone!

Ultimately we need action. We can’t merely wring our hands. Campaigns like this provide a platform but what action will you take #ForAccessibleHomes?