The Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities has announced that all new homes in England will be required to have step free access to every entrance level room. The move follows a consultation into raising accessibility standards for new housing schemes, in an attempt to future-proof England’s housing stock.

The decision has been broadly welcomed by designers and disability campaign groups, although some have said that the move doesn’t go far enough. Currently, just 9% of Britain’s housing stock is suitably adapted for wheelchair users. Other features, such as wider doorways and corridors, and downstairs toilets, are not to be made mandatory.

While it is understood that a further round of consultation will take place which could raise the standards further, there are currently no plans to increase the stock of fully wheelchair accessible homes. It is estimated that around 400,000 wheelchair users in the UK are currently living in homes which are inadequately adapted for their needs.

Holly Holder, Co-Chair of the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition, said: “We warmly welcome the government’s decision to raise the minimum accessibility standard as a positive step towards resolving the significant shortage of accessible and adaptable new homes in this country.”

She added: “Raising the standard of accessibility has the potential to change millions of lives but only if executed well and with very limited exceptions to the way the revised regulation is applied. Homes with higher accessibility standards benefit everyone, particularly disabled people and older people, and disadvantage no one.”

If you are living in a home that would benefit from adaptations, it is possible to request financial assistance from the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). This is designed to provide funding for adaptations that cost over £1,000, such as installing a downstairs bathroom, or a stair lift.

If you meet the eligibility criteria, you could obtain a grant worth up to £30,000 in England. It is often more financially beneficial in the long run to help people live independently in their own homes, than to move to sheltered or residential or nursing homes.

Of course, most people would prefer to remain in their own homes for as long as possible for the increased quality of life that it offers them. Even smaller changes, such as grab rails in the bathroom, nonslip flooring, and ramp installation can make a big difference.

Christina McGill, Co-Chair of the HoME coalition, said: “The need for accessible homes is going to grow significantly over the next 20 years as our population ages. Improving mandatory access standards will remove many of the barriers currently limiting the number of accessible homes being built and help deliver the right quality of homes for everyone.”

It is to be hoped that more inclusive housing will gradually become the norm in the UK, which will bring greater peace of mind, comfort, and prosperity to millions of people.

 

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