On Monday the Guardian published an article by a young disabled man about the barriers he’d experienced trying to find an accessible flat to rent in London.
As a response to the article, Trailblazer Fleur Perry writes about her own experience of living in an inaccessible home and her dream of one day finding somewhere accessible to live.
I’m in my mid-twenties, I live with my parents and I’m looking for a bungalow or suitable ground floor flat in my hometown in the South West (I won’t name and shame). Despite having been on the housing list for the past two years, I’m still looking. More than six months ago, I started frequently spraining my shoulder on the stairlift in order to get upstairs. There isn’t room for a lift and for a variety of reasons a downstairs bedroom is impractical and equally unsafe, if not more so. Simply put, there is no way to avoid spraining my shoulder and no alternative in this ordinary two bed semi.
The affected shoulder is my right; I’m right handed, so on a bad day I struggle to type, write and drive my wheelchair. On a bad night I can’t sleep without painkillers. Today is not a good day. It concerns me that it might have been permanently damaged, or if not already then might be in the future.
Due to this clear and present risk, I’ve been put right near the top of the housing list. They say it’s just a matter of waiting for a suitable property to become available. As a part time Open University student and a volunteer for two great organisations, I can’t afford to privately rent or buy. I’m stuck.
There are far too few accessible properties in the borough to go around. There are a lot of people in similar or worse situations and there’s simply nowhere to go.
Some people have suggested perhaps I should move to a residential care facility or nursing home. Now, this would solve my shoulder problem, but it would likely cost me my independence, my freedom, my opportunities… the cost is too great.
The limited number of such accommodation also means that though this would perhaps be a costly compromise for me, there would still be a huge number of people stuck in unsuitable and potentially dangerous accommodation.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months researching the whats and the whys and the how-comes, because I have a general rule that “if you mess with my sleep, you’ve crossed a line” and woe betide ye who doth cross it. My local borough council Planning Department and Social Housing Department (being the people who could have prevented these issues but didn’t) are currently being prodded.
The decisions around this issue have been made using out of date data and practices, so I’m trying to track down more reliable data and more efficient ideas to suggest to them. I’m not quite there yet, but some things are already pretty clear:
1. Building the right number of accessible properties helps some people maintain their independence longer, leading to savings on Adult Social care budgets for local authorities in the future.
2. Data on a local level is really tricky to find, but regional data supplied by Habinteg isn’t appropriate in every locality.
3. With the ageing population increasing, this needs action ASAP.
One day I’ll move into my dream bungalow or flat, and stop injuring myself on a weekly basis. There’s no place like home…
You can read Locked Out, the Trailblazers report on housing here.